don’t use that tone with me young man!

Apparently there’s a new feature available for certain email software programs called ToneCheck. This works much like spell-check, except rather than correcting your misspelling of “recommend” and overlooking the fact that you wrote “you’re” when you meant to write “your,” ToneCheck highlights content which exceeds some kind of preset filter for negative (or exceedingly positive) emotions such as anger, sadness, resentment, elation, etc.

ToneCheck was released as a plug-in with Microsoft Outlook in July, and will “allow for personal variations in tone, gauge a sentence’s level of emotional ambiguity and offer suggestions for revision.” Click here if you want to see it in action.

I can’t decide if this is really terrific, or laughingly absurd. We’ve all sent an email we’ve almost immediately wished we could unsend (the only thing I miss about AOL), we’ve all cringed at our own words when they come back to us at the bottom of a reply, many of us have probably adopted the if-I-write-it-when-I’m-upsetangrybitterlydisappointedresentfulstarkravingmad-I’ll-wait-for-24-hours-before-sending-it policy. But can we really expect a software program to be able to recognize the subtleties and intricacies of adult communication?

I guess the assistance of an objective “third party” giving us a virtual nudge and asking “are you sure you want to say it that way?” wouldn’t be a bad thing. I could always choose to ignore it. Maybe someone should develop a real-life version, something along the size of a digital recorder, which we can speak into for feedback before saying what we REALLY think at the next office meeting.

8 Responses to “don’t use that tone with me young man!”

  1. December 22, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I think a more useful addition would be a breathalyser available for MAC/PC or smartphone (‘idrunk) which prevents you from sending e-mails, or SMS whilst under the affluence of incahol….

  2. December 22, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    I’m sure I could have used it, but I tend to speed past certain sentence suggestions anyway, so if I was in a mood I could blow past the “tone check”, as well. You can lead a horse to water . . .

  3. December 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I agree with Julee – that although it would be useful, the big mistakes occur when you “know” there’s a mood issue but you’re going on anyway.
    My partner sent an 8-page emotional complaining email to her boss at the beginning of the year and has regretted it ever since. But I’m sure that moment of regret would not have been avoided by Outlook asking her if she was sure she wanted to send. She needed the 24-hour (or more likely 7 day) delay mechanism to provide an emotion change so she would see the issue differently.

  4. December 22, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    That is hysterical but at the same I want to say sign me up! I have seen two wrong emails to my parents. One where I mentioned that they were to old to understand something and in another I said something (not too bad) about my brother! At the same time I tend to be like Julee so it probably wouldn’t help.

  5. December 22, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    I definitely use the 24-hour delay method most of the time, but the times I haven’t — well, let’s say what has been said (in writing) cannot be unsaid. And sometimes it takes a LOT of ‘splainin’ to fix the effects of an email that should not have been sent! I’ve never done that in a business situation, however, only personal. I’ve got a big enough mouth that I KNEW not to send business emails when I was mad, thank God.

  6. December 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Laughingly absurd

    Technology is getting amusing at this point. We have an app for all your problems!

    Having been in the business all I can say is “save the children” at this point of it.

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