The One with the Tone

The One with the Tone

On a whim, I signed up for the course BerkeleyX: ColWri2.2x Academic and Business Writing. It is a 5 week course with weekly journal assignments. I’ll be posting responses to the journal prompts here as I go.

This week’s assignment was to experiment writing in different tones or styles. With the example of writing a colleague for a favor we were instructed to write two versions. The first one, neutral/formal, the second informal and the last, formal but with more of a negative tone. Here goes!

Original writing

Good Morning Sue,

I hope you are doing well. I have an important meeting later this week and I was wondering if it would be possible for me to borrow your office. Two representatives from ABC company have asked to meet with me and your office is quieter and better suited for multiple visitors compared to mine. The meeting will only be an hour and the date and time are flexible, depending on your availability, etc. I would be happy to trade offices a well.

Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you in advance!

– Shannon


Hey Sue. Can I borrow your office later this week? It’ll only be for an hour. Date/time is flexible depending on what you have going on. Let me know. Thanks!

Formal with negative tone

Hi Sue,

I know things are busy, so I wanted follow up just in case you didn’t see my previous email. I have a really important meeting this week and I wanted to know if I could borrow your office. Two representatives from ABC company have asked to meet with me and, if possible, I want to avoid meeting them in my office since it’s next to the lunchroom and can get loud at times. The meeting will only be an hour. I haven’t set a date yet since I was waiting to hear back from you.

Let me know.

– Shannon


Like I mentioned in my first post, writing emails is easy for me. I do memos like this on a daily basis so I enjoyed the first part of this assignment. However, writing the 3rd version (polite but insistent) was uncomfortable and difficult. I struggle with how to be firm without coming off as bitchy or rude. Email makes this challenging since tone can be lost or misinterpreted when you can’t hear how something is being said.

Photo by delete08 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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