The Importance of Clarifying Tone in Professional Correspondence

typewriter-redThe craft of creating professional correspondence has as much to do with understanding the tone in which the letter is to be presented as in any other factor. A letter’s purpose can be diminished, misconstrued, or lost in total if the correspondence is not written with the desired inflection. If you are writing or editing for someone, to avoid these pitfalls, it is imperative to communicate with your boss or client so that the letter’s premise can be converted to the perfect write for that person’s needs.

In conversation, a tone of voice may indicate one thing when the intention is quite different.  Should the speaker recognize the error, this misspeak can be remedied by an apology, by glossing over the infraction, or simply by an abundance of rhetoric intended to cause the listener to forget what had been said, earlier. But when the words are committed to paper, the luxury of remedy is not always possible.

We were trained via our business communications textbooks (a hundred years ago in my case) to practice certain techniques related to tone that unfortunately were seldom applied in the real world of professional correspondence, then or now. The correct tone from the outset makes the task of the letter that much easier, unfortunately, this vital precept is often violated.

Someone might still ask if consistency of tone is really that important. Here is my response: After writing a complicated personal or business letter, how often does one ask if what was written really conveyed what the person wanted to say? And after several rewrites, it is still not uncommon to pose the same question? In an overwhelming number of instances, the problem is not the content, but an issue–somewhere–with the tone of the narrative. Check it out and see how often this is true. 

Robert L. Bacon is the Founder of The Perfect Write(TM)
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