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  1. #1
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    Tone of Voice: Understanding the Writer

    So often I run into situations where I think I understand what someone has said, only to find I was mistaken, because their tone what not what I thought.

    Examples:
    - They were telling me something was wrong, and I thought they were angry, but actually they believed in me, and had no issue.
    - They used an emoticon, and I misinterpreted the "tongue out" with them poking fun at me, and they were actually poking fun at themselves. Or they used a "crying" emoticon, but they weren't "truly" crying.

    I have gotten better at responding to people over the last few years. Here are a few random ideas of mine, but I would love to yours (and maybe some funny stories too):
    - I try to deal with the facts regardless of what I think the tone may be
    - Even if they are upset, that may change
    - If I ask questions, I will be more likely to understand their true intent
    - Expressing interest or concern generally works for happy or sad people.

    So, how do you show your tone of voice as a writer?
    How do you understand the tone of another?
    (and do you have any fun stories to share?)

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy hooperman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dvduval View Post
    So often I run into situations where I think I understand what someone has said, only to find I was mistaken, because their tone what not what I thought.
    Are you talking about on forums? If you are then I can relate to what you're saying. Not everyone takes the same care as you when making a forum post, and many people don't consider how other people may respond to/interpret their words.

    Quote Originally Posted by dvduval View Post
    - I try to deal with the facts regardless of what I think the tone may be
    I think that's important in many forms of written communication. Tone of voice is important when conveying a verbal message but is missing from emails, text messages, forum posts etc. The tone of a written communication is very easy to misinterpret so when in doubt I try and stick to the facts too. If it's appropriate to check out how the other person feels, then I do that.

    Quote Originally Posted by dvduval View Post
    - If I ask questions, I will be more likely to understand their true intent
    - Expressing interest or concern generally works for happy or sad people.
    I think these two points are very much related. You are more likely to get a good response from someone if you make efforts to understand them properly. Asking questions helps not only to clarify what the other person means, but it also shows that you are interested in what they think and care enough to try to find out.

    Personally I like written communication because you can take a more measured approach to making responses. When talking face to face with someone I'm sometimes stuck for words and can't always articulate myself very well. Often, pertinent ideas are just beyond my awareness. Being given more time to write something helps me include everything I want to say and also say it better.

    If I want to convey a particular tone then I try to be as descriptive as possible (in forum posts the emoticons help), and supply all the information necessary for the reader to interpret it properly. You have to attend to the other person's response though, to help you assess whether they understood you. I find it's useful to remember that the responsibility for the communication is the communicator though. So if the person I'm talking to just doesn't 'get it', then I just haven't explained myself well enough.

    Good post dvduval!

  3. #3
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    In web content writing it's important to know the demographic of your audience. Are you writing "B to B" or "B to C". Then you need to target in on the specifics. Are your B to B readers College professors or ditch diggers?
    B to C, are they teens or grandparents?

    Once you've established the demographic, you try to put yourself in their place. Maybe you could call it "empathic writing".

    Why are they reading your piece (be it an article or sales content)?

    Whoever they are, you try to never talk above their heads, but you also take care not to "talk down" to them. For instance, in writing web content for clients, client feedback is crucial. If they don't "get it" neither will their customers. You have to hope they know their market and can tell you whether you have hit the mark or missed it.

    I try to never use buzzwords in writing because today's buzzword is tomorrow's cliche. Most important, you try to be natural. What would you say to them face to face?

    If you're writing in a forum situation, like this one, you have to keep in mind that while the site has a demographic, your readers come from extremely diverse cultures and age groups. The positive side is that, unlike writing web content, you can ask questions here and you can say "it's my opinion", "I don't think I was clear" or " I don't (or didn't) mean to offend."

    Like Hooperman said, it's the responsibility of the communicator to communicate, but even so, in written conversation, I believe it's important to keep "personalities" to a minimum as you read what was written and stick to the facts. Just as your forum colleagues may not understand your tone or POV, differences in culture, language, and usage can make your impression of another's words differ from their meaning. If you don't think you understand, then ask.

    One of the most amusing things I've recently heard is a definition of the phrase "With all due respect". It means "you're an idiot, but I don't want to make you angry."
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown


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