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Stop yelling at me (in your emails)

Emails can create emotionally charged situations and grave misunderstandings. Here is how to keep your tone in check with a new app.

There is email etiquette in how to properly communicate with appropriate punctuation spelling and now for tone.

Psychologists have found that you have a 50-50 chance of accurately understanding the tone of an email message whereas you are convinced 90 percent of the time that you correctly assessed the tone. The findings were published in the December 2005 edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Co-author of the study Nicolas Epley, PhD, professor of behavioral science and Neubauer Family Faculty Fellow at the University of Chicago, said in a February 2006 Monitor on Psychology article, "E-mail is fine if you just want to communicate content, but not any emotional material."

However a new web-app tool, ToneCheck, described as an emotional spellcheck for tone introduced on July 20, is trying to help your chances as a sender of being understood.

ToneCheck.com claims that it "helps people write better and prevent them from saying stupid things," and offers "emotional ratings" based on "eight primary emotions" including affection, loathing, grief and shame for better phrasing.

A free demo is available for Microsoft Outlook 2003, 2007 and 2010 email manager platforms at: http://www.tonecheck.com/buy 

If you have another email manager, you can sign up for an alert as ToneCheck says it is working on various versions. In the interim you can also check your own tone with tips from SixWise.com, a safety and wellness content site, that include:

 - Avoid using ALL CAPS
 - Know when to call instead
 - Avoid vague subject lines
 - Know your audience
 - Send attachments only when necessary
 - Separate different ideas

For more information on these tips and more, go to: http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/06/05/10/e-mail-miscommunication.htm

Full study, "Egocentrism over e-mail: can we communicate as well as we think?": http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=