Careful of Your Written-Tone

Judging someone’s tone of voice and body language are key indicators most of us use to determine how the other person feels about a given situation. In business, these observations are crucial when interacting with employees, vendors, and customers. In today’s world of increased electronic correspondence, social media activity, and remote meetings we don’t always have the opportunity to gauge the tone of the conversation this way. What does your written-tone say about you?

This week, while discussing hot topics during our staff meeting, the Caliber team turned our attention to the meaning behind punctuation in text messages, emails, and social media posts. We realized that even among our team, different audiences translate the unspoken tone or meaning of these nuances in completely dissimilar ways. For example:

Several members of our team respond to quick emails or texts with a simple “k” instead of spelling out the word okay or writing a complete sentence acknowledging their approval of the message they received. We learned that some folks read that as curt, sarcastic approval, or sometimes thinly veiled disapproval being expressed.

A second example relates to the now widespread use of the ellipsis. Without any thought to how the popular … would be interpreted, many team members use it in emails and social media posts on a regular basis. We learned that for some it lent a sarcastic tone to the message being shared.

In general the use of exclamation points and/or ALL CAPITAL LETTERS can lead to major tone confusion as well. Is the sender excited, angry, happy, or simply sharing an important development?

Remember, every communication and interaction is important. As we’ve discussed before, a brand is built through multiple touchpoints along the way, and that includes your personal brand. Before you fire off a response and click send, take a moment to review what you’ve written. Does it accurately express what you want to say? Can it be misinterpreted by the receiving party? It is worth the time to watch your written-tone.

Your Turn: Have you recently experienced a text-only message miscommunication? Share your insight with the Caliber team via email or comment below.

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