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E-mails Have a Tone

December 14 2020 - by Lois Parkes, CARICAD's Leadership and Institutional Strengthening Specialist

E-Mails Have A Tone

While e-mails have been in use extensively in the workplace for several years, e-mails as a form of communication has taken on greater significance with the growth in remote working arrangements occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like other forms of communication, e-mails can be extremely helpful in supporting team and client engagement, performance tracking, among other things. It would be a mistake to believe that it represents a more objective form of communication. In fact, similar to face-to-face communication, e-mails, when read, do have a tone, that is experienced by the reader. The tone of e-mails is created by the choice of words, punctuation, use of letter case, length of sentence, use of emoticons, among others. In addition, and dependent on the topic of the e-mail, the persons copied in the e-mail also helps to create the tone in which an e-mail is read and received.

Below are some things to avoid and tips to consider in constructing e-mails to increase the likelihood that it will be well-received:

  • Avoid using CAPS LOCK, as this can come across as aggressive
  • Avoid negative words in the subject line, and in general. Focus on the outcomes and future action that is required.
  • Cater to the recipient. Re-read your e-mail before sending, from the perspective of the recipient. Ask yourself what is the message I am trying to convey, how will the recipient receive this e-mail, as worded?
  • Be personable, but professional – this can usually be achieved by commencing with a greeting and ending with a farewell
  • Don't play the blame game. This is possibly the most common conflict that arises from e-mail communication. Typically, a conflict arises and one party feels the need to cast blame. To add to it, the e-mail is fired off with copies being sent to several parties, which is then received as an attempt to damage the reputation of the recipient. In such cases, it is often better to have a face to face or telephone discussion first, and to then follow up via e-mail as needed. Also, if you need to send a corrective e-mail, you should copy all the persons that were initially copied. However, it is best to avoid copying parties in an e-mail, with the motive of accusing the target recipient.

 Do share with us any useful tips that you may have in improving e-mail communication.