There is no tone in email

Consider the email chain below. I’ve assembled it in sequential order and bracketed out some parts that are not public.

  On Feb 8, 2012, at 10:56 AM, David Cohen wrote:
Hi Mark,
[Something great is happening to me that I never expected – redacted]. Who knew.
Can you send me [the address I need – redacted]?

On Feb 8, 2012, at 11:14 AM, Mark Solon wrote:
i did…
[the address – redacted]

On Feb 8, 2012, at 11:15 AM, David Cohen wrote:
cool. thanks. sorry. this time i have it. 😉

On Feb 8, 2012, at 11:17 AM, Mark Solon wrote:
no, not what i meant 🙂
you said “who knew”, my answer was “i did”

On Feb 8, 2012, at 11:18 AM, David Cohen wrote:
ah. lol.

On Feb 8, 2012, at 11:20 AM, Mark Solon wrote:
if i ever sent you an email that said “i did” in that manner, i’d call me a dick if i were you…

On Feb 8, 2012, at 11:21 AM, David Cohen wrote:
i never read tone into email. i just figured you were on your phone in a meeting or something.

It would have been easy to read Mark’s “I did” comment as him being a bunghole. To me, he was saying “Dude, I already sent you that information so here it is again” and my initial reaction was that Mark was cranky and having a bad day. But the mistake in reading the tone was 100% mine. Mark was just complimenting me, saying “I knew” that this [something good] was going to happen to you. Essentially, he was saying it was no surprise to him that I was have success with something. He meant it 100% as a compliment, but it came across to me as a rude tone in email.

We all use email for very quick communications today. Keep in mind, any tone you attribute to a message is generated entirely by your brain, and not by the sender. Right now, are you attributing what I’m saying as “preachy” in tone? Or as a simple attempt to be helpful? It’s impossible for you to know from the word written here. Hopefully I get the benefit of the doubt.

Give the sender the benefit of the doubt on tone. Assume email has no tone.

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