Archive for the ‘email’ Tag

Watch Your Tone! – A Plea for Civility in Online Communication   1 comment

Dear Folks,

I’m writing today to ask you to please mind your tone in your online correspondence.  It’s so easy to come off irate or bitter or jealous or devastated in email, especially if you are writing to someone who doesn’t know you or the full context about which you are writing.

Take this example: “We NEED to fix this problem NOW.”  In email, this sentence sounds harsh and irritated and angry; it also implies that the person reading the email does not think the problem needs fixing or at least doesn’t need fixing immediately.  However, the case may be – as it was for me when I received this email – that I hadn’t know there was a problem until that very minute when the email reached me.

Or consider this familiar Facebook refrain: “Today is absolutely the worst day of my life.”  My initial response is to call or drive right over to be sure this person is okay.  However, often such posts have to do with dentist appointments and frustrating children, not the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or deep depression as the hyperbolic tone of the statement implies in written form.

When we write things down, our readers take things much more seriously than if we just said them.  Taking the time to commit something to print typically signals a greater seriousness than might be conveyed in a spoken conversation.  Our challenge, in our 21st century cultures, is to be remember that just because we use online media like we use speech does not mean that our readers perceive them that way.

So instead of, “We NEED to fix this problem NOW.” perhaps we should say, “I would appreciate hearing from you about how we might handle this issue.”  Instead of “Today is absolutely the worst day of my life.” maybe it would be more appropriate to post, “I’ve had a really long, hard day.”  Then, we – the readers – can respond appropriately as the thinking, feeling people we are.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.



What tonal mistakes have you seen in online correspondence?  Why do you think we tend to write these types of things?