How to pitch your tone of voice in emails

Culture cuppa creating how do people hear your emails

How do your emails sound? What does your reader hear when they open your emails? How do they interpret it through their ears?

Here is something interesting: your emails always have a tone of voice, whether you are intentional about it or not, whether you think you are hiding your real feelings about the topic, or your opinion on the other person.

I am sure you are aware that is why it is always a bad idea to react to an email in frustration and fire off a quick reply. Your frustration will be as clear to them, as if you had been speaking to them and they heard it in your voice. That is why they are called ‘flame’ emails.

However, do you know your tone of voice can also be ‘misheard’? 90% of people think their tone of voice is clear in their emails but up to 50% of emails are misinterpreted, which is a huge number!

When you are trying to be polite and formal, this might come across as cold and distant. When you were joking about something in an email, the reader might think you are being serious, or even sarcastic. We have to be careful as this can lead to misunderstanding of our intention and emotional state when we wrote the email.

So, how do you get the tone of voice pitched right in your emails?

Here I share my views so you can make sure your key messages land in the way you intended.

The starting point is how we approach email as a communication tool in itself. So often, we see it as a quick way to fire out messages, and an efficient way to tick tasks off our to-do list.

However, what if it was not just a productivity tool, but we used it in a completely different way? What if we saw it as more than just the broadcast of our information or content, and genuinely approached email as a way of managing our relationships through writing? That is a unique way to perceive emails and one that people do not often consider.

If building relationships in writing is our goal, then we could spend more time carefully preparing before we draft an important email. We would even consider if email is the right tool for the interaction and the conversation we want to build, and to evaluate this I suggest we look at the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of our communication?
  2. What is our relationship with the other person?
  3. What do we need them to do in response? What action do they need to take?

If we take that pause to consider these questions before we even start writing the email, we might find other communication approaches might work better in the situation: calling the person, arranging a quick meeting with them, or even sending a voice or video message on email, using a tool like Loom, or via LinkedIn messenger. In these ways connections might be better created and your tone of voice clear.

If we finally decide that email is the right medium after all, then the next step is to plan our tone of voice and I find this visualisation tool can help us with this:


  1. You are meeting the other person face to face. If you know them, then actually visualise what they look like, how they talk, their facial expressions and gestures. If you do not know them very well or have never met them before, then Google them or check them out on LinkedIn! Or at the very least, picture what they might look like.
  2. Imagine them receiving the email you are about to write. How do they feel about the subject? What is their agenda? What is their likely perspective on it? How can you anticipate their questions or challenges?
  3. Smile! According to a recent study* researchers found smiling, even if you are not feeling the emotion, can have a positive impact on your mood. Basically, using your facial muscles by smiling can “trick” your brain into thinking you are in a positive mood, and this can impact the tone of voice in your email, no matter what you feel about the topic or the other person.

Now that you have focused on the other person, you are connecting and really communicating with them, human to human, in a genuine conversation. This mental preparation will help you pitch your tone of voice, and you are ready to write an email that connects, impacts and influences the reader.

What does your tone of voice sound like in your emails? Contact me to find out how your emails currently sound and how you could improve your written communication in emails.


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Cultural Intelligence certified facilitator
Cultural Intelligence certified facilitator 2
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