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Managing Tone in Professional Writing

Managing Tone in Professional Writing


To learn the four linguistic aspects of tone creation in workplace documents:

  • formality
  • reader-orientation
  • directness
  • presupposition

For this lecture-tutorial, each of the four aspects of tone is defined and then explained through pairs of brief excerpts taken from one professional text. The text is a slightly altered version of an email update sent to customers from the CEO of the financial services company, TIAA-CREF. Students are encouraged to interact with the material in the lecture-tutorial by answering questions about one excerpt from a pair before a revised version with more successful tone is displayed.

  • Formality (contractions, personal pronouns, plain language, preposition placement)
  • Reader-orientation (positive vs. negative content, personal pronouns, grammatical subject vs. semantic role, explanation)
  • Directness (deference markers, uncertainty markers, generalization, nominalization)
  • Presupposition (factive vs. non-factive verbs, wh-words, implicative verbs)


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Lecture-Tutorial on Managing Tone in Professional Writing


Email Adapted from TIAA-CREF Original