Module 16 - Revising Sentences and Paragraphs
Tone is the implied attitude of the speaker or writer toward what the words say.
As in other communication situations, you have to analyze the situation
Teaching Tip: Some observers argue that the combination of decreased social
distance with faceless, online social networking have given people, especially those
in Generation Y, a distorted sense of appropriate tone. For instance, a student in his
or her 20s may feel perfectly at ease criticizing an instructor in front of the class,
whereas older generations may see such behavior as inappropriate. Ask students
about their opinions. How do your students feel about tone? What do they believe is
appropriate for addressing someone in authority or higher in an organization’s
hierarchy? Now, ask them if they feel the same way if they are a customer or an
employee. If the responses differ, ask them why.
Are there rules I should follow? LO 16-3
Most “rules” are really guidelines.
One of the greatest strengths of the English language—and a continual source of frustration,
especially for non-native speakers—is its immense flexibility. To that end, many of the so-called
rules of usage can and are broken by various discourse communities and organizational cultures.
For instance, creative writers often take great license with the rules, using sentence fragments,
comma splices, and even creative spellings of words in ways that would be wholly inappropriate
in other fields. In business, advertisers frequently (and sometimes inadvertently) use similar
approaches to language.
While individual companies are free to choose stylistic conventions
that make them unique, the basic rules of standard edited English
should not be broken. However, as PP 16-7 shows, such “rules” as
“Never use I” are really just guidelines in business communication.
Certainly, “I” is appropriate in situations where the actor is being
Teaching Tip: Have students share some of the “rules” they may have been told
through the years. Ask students which they believe are valid. Which are issues of
style? Which seem appropriate in business communication?
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