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Apr 26, 2021


How to strike the right tone in email

A complete guide to making sure the tone in your email communicates the message effectively and professionally.

Blog writer

Ruth Healy


Blog writer

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Table of contents

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What is a tone in writing?

A great way to think of tone is as the voice of the written word, expressing emotion, character, volume, intonation, and the overall attitude of the message. You could say the difference between the two is that voice is what you say, your tone in email is how you say it.

If you're communicating in person, there are so many visual, physical, and audio cues to observe and pick up on as you interact with somebody. This includes things like body language, hand gestures, the pace and pitch of your speech, facial expressions, and much more. All of these elements crucially add to the tone of the words you are saying.

Once this interaction switches to the written form, all of these cues fall away, and you are expressing yourself with a lot less color.

As we talked through in a blog post about beginning a professional email – tone is how the character of your business comes across with your words, illustrating your emotional perspective without these other useful cues.

So, why not learn as much as possible about tone in business communication and avoid any crossed wires? The more consideration you put into understanding voice and tone in an email, the better reflected and represented you'll be overall.

In this blog post, we help you grasp what tone is, show how to recognize and use all different types of tone in email and how to make sure you always express yourself as you mean to.

Why is tone important?

Expressing yourself clearly, efficiently, and politely is key to successful professional communication. When a lot of this communication is via the written word, you will need to stop and think about what type of tone you're conveying so that the recipient has a good understanding of how you're feeling. You get your message across exactly how you want it to sound.

Already you can see how tone factors into being perceived well, and actually, how being able to convey what you mean can often wholly rely on your tone of voice. In a written medium, this is no different. Yet, the written word can also be more complicated if there is any uncertainty for the reader. For example, when we are missing information, our brains often fill these gaps themselves – seldomly with positive notions. This can lead to a whole myriad of confusions and mixed messages, which nobody wants personally and professionally.

Mastering your email tone means:

  • Greater trust and understanding within working environments.
  • Less time wasted re-reading, reviewing, and rewording all of your email communications.
  • No backpedaling over emails or having to mend fractured professional relationships.

In a business context, it is in your best interest to be understood clearly and have the right attitude coming across in your email, with zero room for confusion or misinterpretation. Such misunderstanding could result in an offended colleague, an unhappy customer, a disgruntled client or partner, or even an offended boss. The list, unfortunately, goes on, but fundamentally, the goal is to prevent any chance of conflict in the long run.

Make sure your email etiquette naturally conveys your intended tone and get up to scratch with all the different ways your voice might and can be interpreted via email – then apply it to your day-to-day work for peace of mind.

Different types of tones in writing

A professional tone in email can take much time to get right. Many people read their emails multiple times, read them out loud, or even put them aside for a short while to come back to later. Guessing how you'll be perceived is almost as frustrating as the guesswork that can go into trying to figure out someone else's tone – trying to interpret the person's emotions regarding the topic and hoping you've understood them correctly.

There are some golden rules that the writer needs to consider before they begin to write that help to determine the appropriate tone: 

  • Why am I writing this?
  • Who am I writing this to?
  • What do I want them to understand here?

The answer to all of these will give you the answer to the question that's brought you here: What kind of tone should I use?

Here's a list of different types of tones in writing to recognize in emails and help minimize the chance of misinterpretation.


  • "Hey"
  • "Thanks so much"
  • "No prob"


  • "As Ms. Dias referred to on our previous call"
  • "According to our department's research"
  • "Dear Members of the Committee,"


  • "How are you?"
  • "Have a great weekend"
  • "Hope all is well!"


  • "Would love to hear your thoughts here"
  • "Why don't you take the lead on this one?"
  • "Great work on the presentation yesterday"


  • "Tuesday and Wednesday next week post 3 pm suit me best"
  • "Graph A and B work well, but the last stat in Graph C is not representative enough"


  • "This is the best plan of action"
  • "I'm going to draw a line under this"
  • "Let's go with strategy B and take it from there"


  • "I feel that with another week of lead generation, we can get this over the line"
  • "As soon as we're done with the room, it's all yours"
  • "Happy to help where I can"

Setting tone in email

Similar to our post on how to write a professional email, guidelines for setting your email tone follow a pretty straightforward rule of conduct. The best practices are as follows.

Be polite and sincere

Being courteous will always be a good place to start in order to set a great tone from the outset.

Use non-discriminatory language

Treating everyone as equal is a mark of respect and prevents any bias or offense from coming between the writer and reader.

Prioritize your information 

Figure out the most important thing you're saying and make sure it's clearly expressed early on in the email. Ambiguity can confuse the message.

Keep the positive front and center

Similarly, emphasize the good news in your communications; it shows that you value this most before tackling anything else.

Pay attention to detail

Proofing for grammar, spelling, structure implies that you care about how this message communicates to the reader.

Mind the length

This can convey a variety of emotions to the reader. Too short can appear curt or annoyed. Too long looks unfocused and unclear – an abundance of words can sometimes bury the true meaning of a message.

Examples of tone in writing emails

With the new learnings in mind, let's look at some examples of the tone of an email. If you find yourself in the following or similar professional situations, it's key to accurately represent how you're feeling and want to be perceived. We hope these examples will further help you to understand and convey tone in business communications.

Disagreeing with a colleague

Hi Beth,

This is such a great, creative suggestion, I really appreciate you going to the effort of looking at some of these options. We could potentially explore this at some point depending on the feedback we collect across demographics, although if I'm being honest, I would see this approach alienating some of our users and would hate to have to undo a lot of your hard work there. Maybe something like a wider campaign via email would include all of the touchpoints that we need to be interacting with? 

Open to ideas though!

Thanks so much,

The tone of this email is interpreted as indirect, and therefore a bit insincere. What you're trying to express is being lost in flowery language and long sentences.  The better way to go about it could be something like the following sample.

Hi Beth,

Nice idea, I see where you're coming from; however, we need to represent more of our customer base, plus I think we need to move quite fast on this one. Let's try a simple email campaign to all age categories and review the results in a week. Sound good?


Frustration with not being heard


As per my previous TWO (!) emails, this will not work. What part did you not understand?? This date does not suit Mr. Arnaux, and he will NOT be attending the event next week!


This email is an example of a very condescending tone. There is no greeting, the sentences are very blunt, and using multiple question and exclamation marks is unnecessary. Capitalizing words also conveys an angry tone that should be avoided at all costs. Take a breath, stay calm, and try a fresh but direct approach. Here's how to sound more professional while delivering the same message.

Hi Patrick,

Nothing has changed on our end - the event dates still do not work for Mr. Arnaux.

It looks like our wires might be getting crossed here. Do you have time for a quick call this afternoon? It would be great to get on the same page.


Declining an interviewee for a role on your team

Hello Sara,

While it was lovely speaking with you regarding the open position last week, I regret to tell you that we sadly won't be proceeding with your application. I'm so sorry to have to give you bad news, and I hope you're not too upset with this resulting feedback.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.


The tone here is very apologetic for something that is a natural outcome in an interview process. Using this style of language conveys disproportionate sadness, and by default, guilt, which is not a great impression for the business' employer brand. This is how you could write the same email in a more professional tone. Also, check out some more tips on writing the perfect candidate rejection email.

Hello Sara,

Thanks for taking the time to meet last week. Unfortunately, we will not be proceeding with your application at this time.

At this moment, we're seeking candidates with a more specific skillset to fulfill this role, although we were very impressed with your overall experience. We'd like to stay in touch regarding any further opportunities we feel you might be a fit for if you were happy for us to do so?


Updating on a challenging project

Hello all,

Unfortunately, we are not where we expected to be at this stage of development. Despite planning each segment carefully, we are struggling to hit the weekly target numbers. I don't see this changing in the next month, although we are seeing some interesting findings in other areas of the project.

I'm hoping this is not too much of a setback. Feel free to share any thoughts on this.


Needless to say, this is an overly negative tone. Yes, it's good to take ownership of slow progress or failures, however framing the email this way doesn't show any promise, hope or conviction that will assure management knows that the individual is capable of dealing with the situation. The email portrays a lack of confidence and a despairing feeling about the work, which should be avoided. Here's how to improve the tone and manner of communication of the same hardships.

Hello all,

When originally setting the goals for this project, I neglected to account for the off-season period in the sporting calendar. Understandably, this means our numbers will be lower than projected – however, we have seen hugely positive consumer behavior on our online store via the great social media campaign our team has been running, as well as huge growth in our overall social following.

We will be looking into these developments further and keep you posted on insights as we readjust our expected figures for this month.

Any questions on this are more than welcome.


Excitement at a sale prospect

Hi Jorge,

Amazing news!!! So excited that you'll be coming on board as a Crossify customer! The team here are so delighted we've processed all of the paperwork (see attached!) in the hopes that we can get this all closed off today :D Sound good?!

Any questions or queries, just give me a ring at any time on +34 8711540, and we can get everything sorted.

Kind regards,

While definitely a reason to be happy, the enthusiastic email tone here is a bit inappropriate and off-putting given the context. The prospective client may read this as amateur, unprofessional, or even desperate – has it been a while since you made a sale? Reply in a positive but measured fashion and above all, remain confident in your professional abilities in this negotiation. The appropriate tone for this email correspondence could look something like this.

Hi Jorge,

Brilliant! The team and I look forward to onboarding you as an official Crossify customer. You can find all of the necessary paperwork attached but just let me know if you have any questions. 

Alternatively, we can also set up a call for next week to finalize things in person. More than happy to walk you through the documentation.

Kind regards,

Familiarising yourself with this overview and examples will work as an invaluable email tone checker. You can also use Flowrite to help you sound like you want to in your emails. Here's how it works:

Flowrite has a tone selector that helps you always deliver the message the way you intended – you pick the tone you want your email to convey, and our AI-powered writing tool takes care of the rest. Learn more about our AI-writing tool here

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