Tone in Business Documents

1) Use a “You” Attitude / Audience Adaptation

Think about what the person to whom you’re writing wants and needs, NOT what you want and need.

Example:

“We need to clear out 400 smart phones before Christmas.”

becomes

“You can save right now on smart phones.”

 

Just using the word “you” isn’t enough. You must focus on the customer’s needs.

Example:

“You need to keep better track of your shipping records.”

becomes

“We will do our best to locate the lost package and get back to you as soon as we can.”

 

2) Focus on the Positive

Avoid “we can’t” focus on “we can.”

Example:

“We don’t carry Samsung phones.”

becomes

“We have LG phones which, in our experience, customers like much more than Samsung phones. We would love the chance to show you our full LG line. We don’t carry Samsung phones.”

 

3) Use Sincere, Warm, Conversational Tone

Example:

“If you bring in the damaged, sweater we will ascertain whether the fault was yours or not.”

becomes

“Please bring the sweater in. Customer satisfaction is our number-one goal, and we’ll do our best to make you happy.”

 

4) Don’t Gush or Exaggerate

Example:

“We absolutely, positively have the best prices in the universe.”

becomes

“We provide an excellent value.  Our prices and service are very competitive, and most of our customers have worked with us before.”

 

5) Minimize the use of negative words

Example:

“Your failure to file your form by the deadline requires that we ignore your request.”

becomes

“We won’t be able to help you because the law requires that we process only requests received before the due date.”

 

TONE PRACTICE

The following sentences have poor tone. For each example, decide which tone problem from the previous page is the most pronounced, and write the corresponding number next to the sentence. In other words, if you think that the biggest problem with the first sentence is that it goes overboard, write a numeral “5” next to it. Rewrite each sentence so that the tone is improved. Work in groups of two. Hand in the worksheet when you’re done.

  1. We have to keep our stock moving.
  1. You can help us reach our sales goal
  1. We do not sell hybrid life insurance and investment products
  1. We no longer carry the part you are looking for.
  1. We can beat any competitor’s price by a mile, period.
  1. We are so good at what we do, that we’re not sure why our competitors even get up in the morning.
  1. We regret to inform you that our company cannot grant your request for a revocation of your current delinquent status.