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Avoid Email Miscommunications, Monitor Your Tone

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD | Last updated on

As lawyers, we can receive up to 100 emails per day -- and that's on a slow day. Keeping track of so much email, and maintaining a clutter-free inbox can be a big job in itself -- before you actually even get to the content of the email messages.

How many of you have received an email that you weren't quite sure how to interpret? You're not alone. Without the benefit of the messenger's tone of voice, or expression, we end up projecting a tone on to the email message based on what we see on the computer screen.

How to Watch Your Tone

Monitoring your tone in email messaging can go a long way in producing a healthier work environment that minimizes the amount of projecting employees (and clients) need to do to try to "understand" your emails. Just as you need to monitor your tone on social media -- so too with your employees and clients.

If you could only perfect your email tone, you'd avoid many small misunderstandings and miscommunications. Here are some ways to monitor your tone to try to avoid misunderstandings.

1. Select Your Fonts Carefully

First things first, never use all caps -- it's the equivalent of screaming through your computer. Also be wary of changes in color or font to highlight important words.

2. Don't Keep It Too Short

Messages that have the most potential for coming off as curt or rude are messages that are too short. Take the extra minute to write requests in a full sentence. For example, "Schedule the depo" versus "Would you please contact the client to find out a convenient time to schedule the deposition?" It didn't take that much extra time, but the tone is worlds apart.

3. Be Courteous

Always say please, and thank you.

4. Read it Back

Take a minute before pressing send and read back your message -- and imagine being the recipient. Make any changes that you think will clarify your tone so as to avoid any misunderstanding.

Fortunately, fixing your tone is as easy as neglecting your tone. With just a few extra moments per message, you can avoid office conflict and misunderstandings -- isn't that worth it?

Editor's Note, June 28, 2016: This post was first published in July, 2014. It has since been updated.

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