This reminded me of the aspects of modern communication that I dislike. With texts, email, and social media you can't always interpret the sender's tone. It's difficult to judge inflection and genuine sentiment. A message might sound aloof, unkind, or impatient, even though that isn't the author's intent.
It also, of course, causes me to consider the role tone plays in our writing. What is tone? One definition says it is how it feels, sounds, and/or is interpreted. Tone can take shape through word choice, sentence structure, and a writer's attitude and style. A writer’s tone can be sarcastic, serious, funny, sad, and so on. I believe that tone also plays a role in a writer’s voice.
Writing gives us an opportunity to employ an appropriate, reader friendly tone. We may not always directly consider tone during the process, but it does factor into the mix. Our words, whether informal conversation or published work, send an impression to others. The revision process can help us assume the correct tone.
With that in mind, I do the following before submitting:
- Consider the audience and publication.
- Get input from from critique partners.
- Read it aloud. The ear is a great editor, catching things the eyes miss.
Regarding texts, emails, and social media, it is impossible to convey our intended tone 100% of the time, no matter how many emojis we use. So I've adopted an informal policy, "tone insurance", if you will. Some of the same points above apply.
- I don't respond to emotional questions or issues in haste. If it potentially stirs my emotions, I wait and pray until I'm sure to respond rationally.
- I read my response aloud because I want to hear how it might sound to the recipient. It also slows down the process which allows me grace and space as I consider my reply.
- I get a second opinion from someone who offers an outside and fresh perspective.
While not foolproof, these simple steps have polished my work and helped keep my foot out of my mouth. Can anyone relate? :)
What steps do you take to ensure proper writing tone? How do you think others perceive your writing tone?