S1E2: Tone + Register Transcript

S1E2: Tone + Register Transcript

Hello and welcome to episode 2 where we will discuss tone and register whilst also looking at a breakdown of how best to construct an email. As usual, there’s some vocabulary we need to cover first:

  • Delayed (verb) to be late or slow.
  • Concern (verb) relate to; be about.
  • Occasion (noun) a particular event, or the time at which it takes place.
  • Correspondence (noun) communication by exchanging letters or digital media.
  • Acknowledge (verb) accept or admit the existence or truth.
  • Entail (verb) involve (something) as a necessary or inevitable part or consequence.
  • Emphasis (noun) special importance, value, or prominence given to something.
  • Blessing in disguise (idiom) an apparent misfortune that eventually has good results.
  • Directness (noun) the quality of being plain and straightforward.
  • Presumably (adverb) used to convey that what is asserted is very likely though not known for certain.
  • Humble (adj) having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s importance.
  • ‘Know-it-all’ (noun/informal) a person who behaves as if they know everything.
  • Harangue (verb) lecture (someone) at length in an aggressive and critical manner.

Now, writing an email isn’t just about getting people to do what you want; it’s about making connections and building relationships. You want your emails to have a professional tone while also being open and friendly. You want people to work with you and a well-written, bubbly yet formal email will do that. As I’ve said before, you want to show personality behind the formalities.

Opening

Unless you know the name and/or gender of the person you’re writing to it’s best to use gender-neutral terms. These could be ‘to whom it may concern’ (although this is rather impersonal) or ‘Dear (NAME OF BOARD) / Dear (NAME OF EDITORS) or you could use ‘Mx.’ (pronounced ‘mix’ or ‘mux’.) I highly advise finding the name of the person you’re writing to.

Typically formal ways of opening an email include: ‘Dear Ms’ (if you don’t know whether the woman is married), ‘Mrs’ (if you know the woman is married), ‘Mr’ (which works for both unmarried or married men). You don’t always have to use ‘Mr’ and ‘Ms’ to remain formal. Depending on the situation, stating the person’s name – for example ‘Dear Tom’ – would be formal enough.

Note: If you’re sending out the same email and are in the habit of copying and pasting the email (like I am) then I suggest you read it carefully before sending. I have, on more than one occasion, sent an email addressed to the wrong person. I received a response – one of them was not happy, they found it rude and showed that I hadn’t done my research and/or didn’t care about them as a company. I received another response – they were fine, ignored it, in fact, and were more concerned about the contents of my email. This is very rare. Always assume the person you’re emailing won’t be pleased with the wrong name so go slow and be careful!

First paragraph

It’s important to acknowledge whether you’ve had previous contact with this person or not. For example, you may be responding to their email, in which case ‘thank you for your email’ would be a good way to begin your first paragraph.

What happens if your response is delayed? This can happen quite often – work gets too busy, emails mount up, and the delay gets longer. So how best to acknowledge this delay whilst being polite and not too apologetic? Well, you could say, ‘I apologise for not getting in contact sooner’ or ‘Apologies for the delay in my getting back to you.’

Now that you’ve acknowledged your previous correspondence your next step is to state why you are emailing.

So why are you emailing this person? Perhaps you’re replying to their message, in which case it is best to include a short note about what that entailed. For example, ‘I am writing with regards to…’ or ‘in response to your previous email…’ This directly references your purpose, making it easy for the reader to understand and remember your prior correspondence.

But why are you writing to them? It could be that you want to ask them for information. In which case you could say, ‘I’m writing to ask for some information regarding…’ or ‘I wanted to ask/I want to know…’ or ‘I’m interesting in receiving/finding out…’ These are very formal phrases without being too stiff.

Or, you could be asked to give information. The phrases, then, become very similar to the previous paragraph. For example, ‘I’m writing to let you know that…’ or ‘we are able to confirm that…’ or ‘I am delighted to inform you…’ etc. Of course, you may have to give bad news so you may write, ‘I/We regret to inform you…’ (but more of that in episode 6 and 7.)

You may be writing to request something. This can happen all the time in an office – or, as a lot of us have experienced, working from home, when you need a colleague to do something. For example, you may want them to look over your report so you would say, ‘I’d be grateful if you could…’ or ‘I wonder if you could…’ If you wanted to be even politer you could phrase it as a question, ‘Do you have time to look over my report?’ or ‘I was wondering if you could possibly look over my report and tell me what you think?’

The final reason you may also be writing is to offer help. You want to be gentle and not too pushy. For example, phrasing it like a question such as ‘Would you like me to…?’ or ‘I’m happy to help’ or ‘Let me know if you’d like me to help…’ are much better.

Attachments

One of the greatest gifts about sending emails nowadays is that you no longer have to worry: did I forget to send the attachments? Now, if you use the word ‘attachment’ in your email and hit ‘send’, the email will register whether you’ve attached something or not. So, this is a blessing in disguise. One less thing to worry about.

But you do need to mention that you have sent attachments. There are two very simple phrases to use ‘Please find the ____ attached’ or ‘I’ve attached the documents as a PDF file.’

Now that you’ve began your email properly, explained why you’re emailing, attached your documents, it’s time to finish the email with a few last comments.

You want the person reading your email to feel pleased, not pushed. You want them to be welcomed into doing what you’ve asked, not harangued. You want them to feel good. So a good final comment to make is ‘thank you in advance’ (if you’ve asked for something) or ‘I’m always happy to help’ (if you’re offering help).

You also want the person emailing you to feel like they can email again. To do this you can say, ‘don’t hesitate to contact us or me again if you require any further information’ or ‘don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need my help again’ or, finally, ‘please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.’

Now, how do you finish your email?

Think of this as the final taste. It’s what the reader is left with. It’s what they remember. Try to end on a positive note, for example you could say, ‘I’m looking forward to…’ (make sure to use verb + -ing at the end of that sentence.) Shorter, swifter endings include ‘give my regards to’ or ‘best wishes’ or, my personal favourite, ‘kind regards.’

And there you have it. An email that uses the correct register and tone. You don’t want a colleague or a potential employer to read an email littered with abbreviations and slang. Head over to episode three where you’ll learn various phrases and sentence structures to use in your emails.