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Tone: Tailoring Language to Your Audience

Summary:

Provides information on revising business documents for audience and purpose with emphasis on language, tone, organization, and correctness.

Contributors:Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-21 08:23:52

Have I expressed my ideas so that the reader will feel that I am helpful, courteous, and human?

Tactless: You neglected to take care of the requirements of form 123.
Tactful: To enjoy the full benefits of your new ABC, simply follow the procedures outlined on form 123.

Tactless: We want our check.
Tactful: To keep your account in the preferred Ed customer class, send our check for $142.33 today.

Have I tailored my message to my reader's desires, problems, circumstances, and probable reactions to the purpose of my message?

Flat Detail: This cookware is guaranteed to withstand temperature changes.
Detail Adapted to Readers' Needs: Because Creston cookware can withstand extreme changes in heat and cold, you can safely move any piece from your freezer to your microwave.

Have I emphasized "you", the reader, instead of "I" or "We"?

"We" Attitude: We are happy to have your order. We shipped it this morning.
"You" Attitude: You will receive your solid walnut desk by Tuesday, October 23.

"We" Attitude: We regret that you've had so much trouble with our product, and we apologize for not solving your problem sooner.
"You" Attitude: You were right to ask me about the troubles you've been having with your new car. Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions.

Have I expressed my ideas so that they reflect good public relations for the company (letters) or good human relations with my colleagues (reports)?

Poor Attitude: You must remember that we've more responsibility here at CEC than worrying about someone's fingers getting caught in some machine.
Good Attitude: I've asked Mr. Sanders, a safety consultant from Health Enterprises, to investigate and suggest possible procedure and machine modifications.

Poor Attitude: It's hardly possible that our trigger could have misfired without some contributing cause; nevertheless, to help out hose who lack technical know-how, a company as responsible as Creative Guns can gladly replace the trigger you have.
Good Attitude: To prevent your gun from misfiring again, we will gladly replace the trigger you have.

Have I tactfully avoided words and phrases which imply that my reader is dishonest, careless, or mentally deficient?

Tactless: Obviously, if you'd read your policy carefully, you'd be able to answer these questions yourself.
Tactful: I'm glad to clear up these questions for you.

Tactless: In order to complete the claim you made, simply. . .
Tactful: To complete your transaction, . . .

Have I stressed the positive and avoided emphasizing ideas my reader may view unfavorably?

Negative: I regret to inform you that your admission to candidate status has been delayed until you complete the following requirements.
Positive: Before you are admitted to candidate status, you will need to complete the following requirements.

Negative: On March 3, we sent you the accidental injury forms and requested that you return them to the Health Center. It is now March 27, and we have not yet received your reply.
Positive: To receive your check from Student Insurance, please file the accidental injury form we sent you on March 3.

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