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How to Write in a Positive Tone


"Tone" refers to the emotion or attitude that comes across in writing. In business letters, argument, other essays or general communication, creating a positive tone that conveys the message with amiable, heartfelt language typically results in a more favorable reader response. Writing with a positive tone requires attention to language, the opening, the organization and emphasis.

Choose Positive Language

Words like "not," "no," "refuse," "mistake" and "failure" send a negative message to readers. Avoid such language, instead indicating what can or will occur. For instance, rather than, "The legislation cannot be presented until 20 to 30 days from now," write, "The legislation will be presented within 20 to 30 days." Revise statements such as "Do not hesitate to contact me" with more positive phrasing -- "Please contact me." Out of the possible words that fit your meaning, choose the one with the least negative connotation. That is, select words without emotional overtones. For example, "Because you failed the exam, you must try again" is less tactful than "You may retake the exam."

Create a Strong Opening

Starting a business letter or other writing with excuses or a drawn-out justification puts you on the defensive, creating negative language. Particularly when writing bad news letters, writers may begin with language like, "We regret to inform you that you did not get the job." This wording sounds like you wish you had hired the person receiving the letter. Writing, "The position has been filled" instead strongly and clearly makes the same point without starting off with an apology; it sets a more positive tone.

Organize Effectively

Placing the positive information in more prominent positions and burying the negative in between also creates more positive-sounding writing. People more emphatically note ideas presented at the beginnings and endings of structures, whether those structures are letters or essays, paragraphs or sentences. A sentence structured to accentuate the positive could read, "Students can use the discount card for any CMS product, except pharmaceuticals, to receive 20 percent off their purchase." The exception here is played down by positioning it in the middle of the sentence.

Emphasize the Positive

How much negative information you give also affects the tone of your message. Be sure your letter or essay contains more positive ideas than negative ones. Use concise language for negative points. For example, instead of creating a long list of specific medications the CMS discount card does not work for in the earlier example, you can use a general label like "pharmaceuticals." You can also balance the negative information by presenting alternatives when it's feasible. Instead of arguing that all guns must be banned, for instance, suggest outlawing only assault weapons as a start.

About the Author

Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

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