Hit the Right Tone in Your Business Writing

It's pretty easy to take visual cues from an audience when you stand before them to speak, but how about when you prepare written words for the same group? Business Writing That Counts! give you the tools you need to write effectively, but only you can assess your audience and set the tone for your communication with that audience.


Why Tone Matters

Take all the time you like to prepare key points that make readers respond or turn to your way of thinking, but make it too formal, too casual, or too complex, and you lose more than you gain. As with speaking, writing must connect with readers. Considering you lack in-person cues and visuals, tone in writing takes on even greater importance. If the tone is inappropriate, readers might not connect—or worse—they might feel insulted and turn away.

Write with tone appropriate for the audience and they will concentrate on the words and ideas, not on how you convey them.


Consider Energy Level

When energy level of words is high, often through hyperbole, you convey a greater sense of urgency or evoke more emotional responses. "We must meet right away to stop the cost overruns" tells staff you mean what you say. Cool writing is a little more passive and factual, letting the reader take it in, absorb it, and consider its importance.

Use hotter styles for sales writing and other calls to action. Cool it down when you want to avoid causing panic in your readers. And when turning to a hot or high energy level, avoid hyperbole and catch phrases as much as possible, relying instead on action verbs and descriptive adjectives.


Make it Formal or Informal

Formality is an easier tone to spot and an important one to consider. Aside from sales and advertising, most business writing tends toward the formal. But how far should you take that formality?


Informal writing, especially with catchphrases and colloquialisms, might connect with a particular audience, but completely fail with others. It also can become outdated as popular culture evolves.


Formal writing might have staying power, but miss connecting to readers. In some business contexts, that might work. In general, formal writing typically is passive and less effective at getting the response you want from readers. Know your audience (stockholder vs. young adult customers, for example) and choose a tone that hovers somewhere on the formal to informal scale.


Read and Test Your Tone

Read your piece again after finishing with only tone in mind. Say the words out loud if that helps. You also can test your writing with a trusted peer of your intended audience. Keep tone consistent and appropriate, and you're likely to strike the right interest, emotion or action.


Tone might not be as easy to "catch" as are typos, but this elusive trait of your business writing can make or break readers' engagement and responses. Learn more about audiences and tone for your business writing, and how you can have trained, in-house help with our licensing program. Call us at 425.485.3221.

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