Style and tone refer to how something is said: the words you choose, your sentence and paragraph lengths, the details you include, your attitude towards the reader, whether you use positive or negative words, etc. Every word you choose creates a reaction within the reader.
For example, which would you prefer to hear?
- I’m happy to answer any questions.
- If you still don’t understand, I can clarify for you.
Probably the first one, right? Even though these sentences mean roughly the same thing, one makes the speaker seem approachable and friendly. The other makes it seem as if anyone who doesn’t understand is at fault and is wasting the speaker’s time. That’s the power of tone.
It’s important to pay attention to tone because, especially when we communicate in writing, tone can be hard to convey. If someone’s confused about your message’s content, they’ll ask you follow-up questions. But people don’t often give each other feedback about tone. It’s rare that someone will say, “Your email came off as a little hostile. Did you intend that?” Without you knowing it, tone miscommunications can negatively impact your relationships with coworkers, bosses and clients.
This chapter will also tackle wordiness. Wordy or imprecise writing is responsible for a lot of lost productivity in the workplace. In one survey of 547 business professionals, 81% said that “poorly written material wastes a lot of their time.” (Bernoff, 2016, para. 4). So, learning how to write clearly and concisely can give you a huge advantage.