It seems to me that after 20 years of folks using email I wouldn't have to write a post about tone of voice, but it comes up - still - too often. How you say something is just as important as what you say. Let's review what to say in an email and how to say it.
Rule #1: If you would not say it in person, do not email it. Period. No excuses. Email is supposed to be YOU and if you are saying things online that you wouldn't say in person because you are more credible in person, a jerk behind a screen, or just just chicken shit - don't send the email. Ever.
Rule #2: If you ARE writing an email and you aren't sure who is receiving it or how they will read it, sit on it for at least an hour. You do not have to send everything immediately.
Rule #3: We are all rushed, but don't be rude. It takes minutes to write a few sentences and those words might soften the blow of a curt yes or no. Take the time.
Rule #4: Use LOL, emoticons, or other indicators if you aren't sure they know you are kidding. Email never reads as funny to the reader. Ever. YOU may think it is obvious you are joking, but the reader can't tell. I swear. They can't. So loose your hatred of the smiley face and add it. Really. Your reader will thank you - even if they think you are a silly 13 year old girl sometimes.
Rule #5: Pick up the phone. If you DO have something a bit more harsh to share, pick up the phone and just say it. YOu are a big girl or boy and can put on your big kid pants and deal the harsh news in person. Sure, you may like to hide behind email, but the other person deserves you acting like a grown up. Be one.
Having trouble with tone? Ask a friend or family member to read it before you send it. Still not setting things right with your contacts? Email me and let's see what the problem might be.