Strike the Right Tone

by Richard Bierck

Business writers agonize over word choice, syntax, and structure. But they often overlook one of the most important steps: matching the tone of the piece to the occasion—and to the audience.

You probably have a keen sense of what’s appropriate when talking to others. But do you apply this judgment in your e-mails, letters, and proposals? Your tone determines whether readers are turned on or put off by your message, whether they laugh with you or at you. To strike the right chord, carefully monitor your energy level and degree of formality.


Ask yourself, “How hot or cool should this message be?” Here are examples of both extremes.


Anyone who hasn’t had his head in the sand lately knows about ...

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