Picture of Monica McQuaid
Tone Deaf?
by Monica McQuaid - Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 9:34 PM
"Tone is part of the triad of advanced moderating strategies largely because you're using a text-based medium where tone must be more consciously or deliberately built into one's writing" (Chapter 6 Tone -: What Does Tone Have to do With It?: from Facilitating Online Learning by George Collison)

It doesn't matter if you can sing like a star or can't carry a tune in a bucket, none of us are tone deaf when it comes to online communication. Words have a very powerful effect on people. All of us have received correspondence that has caused us to smile, cry, get angry, etc. For this assignment we are going to consider the tone of the messages we send to others.

Read the following article- Chapter 6 – Tone: What Does Tone Have to do With It?: from Facilitating Online Learning by George Collison

Please answer the following questions:
1. Think about the emails you have written. Give an example of a time you wrote an angry email. What was the outcome of that email?
2. Looking back on page 125, which of the tones are easiest for you to write in? Write a short paragraph, minimum of three sentences, using this tone.

Picture of Christin Hunter
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Christin Hunter - Thursday, October 18, 2012, 12:10 PM

Goodness, I try hard not to write an angry email. However, recently I received a phone call from a support tutor informing me that she had to argue with a student of mine who got mad about certain assistance received from the tutor.

The tutor relayed a message to me that basically said that the student was incensed and argumentative and was not following standard procedures as outlined in the class.

I then emailed the student, and in it I used normal text but then some all CAPS (so I was obviously SHOUTING in virtual world), and I definitely had an accusatory tone when I should have stopped and tried to consider a better way to ask this student about the incident.

She responded with a tone that indicated she was clearly upset and perhaps her side of the story was not heard.

I immediately had to consider my response, and my tone in the follow-up email changed to one that was understanding, probing, yet definitive in the standard process details to avoid future confusion.

Because I did not know the whole story, even if the student did do the things the tutor noted, I still could have emailed in a way that set a tone of authority but willingness to know what happened from the student first. It is rare that a tutor would make up a story about a student, but I should try to remain neutral when asking a student about an event like this...lesson learned.

It was, to say the least, a learning experience.


Picture of Jef Halverson
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Jef Halverson - Thursday, October 18, 2012, 1:14 PM


Thank you for sharing your real world example. I think that it will stick in my mind as a lesson better than reviewing the related netiquette rules. I have a posted rule that I will respond to emails within twenty-four hours of receipt. I put this into use a lot. More often I use it when I have an usual question or one that I find annoying more than one with an angry tone. Sometimes I'll compose a response immediately and save rather than send it. I find that if I wait some time to respond that I compose a better response that includes beneficial information or better addresses the subject than what I wrote after first reading it.

Jef @ WI

Picture of Jef Halverson
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Jef Halverson - Thursday, October 18, 2012, 1:58 PM


This is well designed. It makes the person revisit and reflect on the actual act rather than simply reading a set of rules that might not connect as well to the act of writing an angry email. I have an activity where students watch a video on netiquette and then post to the discussion board. In the post they describe one of the netiquette topics. Mine is not nearly as effective of a learning activity as yours. After a while all of the topics are used up and being repeated. I am certain that all students have experience with many of the topics. May I steal your idea?

I would like to add that your second paragraph sets a great tone for the assignment.

Jef @ WI

Picture of Monica McQuaid
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Monica McQuaid - Thursday, October 18, 2012, 7:11 PM

Sure you can use whatever you need. That is what is so great about these types of classes, the ability to share ideas.

Picture of Jef Halverson
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Jef Halverson - Thursday, October 18, 2012, 7:30 PM
Thank you.
Picture of Annie Mae Kingston
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Annie Mae Kingston - Saturday, October 20, 2012, 6:07 PM
Jef, I have never taught an on line class. My teaching experience is in informal community education settings. I have sent what I would consider "snarky" e-mails, usually intended to be so, when dealing with an architect or construction company executive during our building process at work. If I want to be sure that my skepticism or anger does NOT show through I have someone proof my e-mail.

Looking at the tones on page 125, I think possibly the easiest for me to write are nurturing or humorous. Humor is difficult because it is so easily given to misinterpretation. Nurturing is harder for me to define.

Humor: Often when teaching I use examples from my large family...of course it is easier because they live far away and will probably never know what I say....I hope. My family has a rich history of stories full of curious examples of how families interact. I think "fun" is in our genes, and it is an important component of everything we do. It has brought us very close together as siblings and it has been most interesting watching them through the years raise children...I do not have children, so I can be very objective? I always thank God for the women my brothers have married...no I mean it....my sister-in-laws are wonderful! I am so looking forward to the epic anniversary party for my next oldest brother and his wife coming up this weekend. Another costume party that will go down in Central Wisconsin history!
Picture of Mark Wenta
Re: Tone Deaf?
by Mark Wenta - Saturday, October 20, 2012, 8:34 PM

I cannot recollect any emails that would address this issue, but I know I've had them. Therefore, I'll move to the second question.

I think my best tone is analytical. I do a pretty good job of simply laying out the facts. When I try to add humor, I think much of the effect is lost. (I have a theory of why this is in a response to Jef's post.) As a math teacher, analytical is pretty easy.

So anyway, I don't know how well that paragraph counts as an analytical example, but I am much better if I have my usual technical topic to write about. The article regarding the different tones, as well as your question, made me consider the tones I use, and identify which is my best. It made me realize that I should focus on the style that I do best.

- Mark from Chippewa Falls