System Checks Your E-Mail's 'Tone' Without body language and other nonverbal cues, it's easier to misinterpret the meaning of text messages sent over the Internet. Robert Siegel and Michele Norris discuss one Canadian company that says it has the solution -- a system that identifies potential problem phrases before your e-mail is sent. It's called ToneCheck.
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System Checks Your E-Mail's 'Tone'

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System Checks Your E-Mail's 'Tone'

System Checks Your E-Mail's 'Tone'

System Checks Your E-Mail's 'Tone'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128778526/128778504" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Without body language and other nonverbal cues, it's easier to misinterpret the meaning of text messages sent over the Internet. Robert Siegel and Michele Norris discuss one Canadian company that says it has the solution — a system that identifies potential problem phrases before your e-mail is sent. It's called ToneCheck.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And whatever email program you might be using, it's always a good idea to keep in mind your tone. Awkward misunderstandings occur all the time over email, text and instant messaging. Take it from Matt Eldridge, a salesman from New Brunswick in Canada.

MATT ELDRIDGE: I was great at over the phone or face to face, but when it came to emails, I would come across as aggressive or pushy or harsh.

NORRIS: And nobody likes a pushy salesman. So Eldridge came up with the idea for a computer program that works like spell check for emotions. It's called ToneCheck and it was released last week. ToneCheck works with Microsoft Outlook scanning emails for potential problems.

ELDRIDGE: Consider: You misunderstood, as opposed to: You misunderstand. You know, the literal meaning is the same. But emotionally, I mean it makes you feel different.

SIEGEL: According to ToneCheck, at least, you misunderstood, might humiliate someone, whereas, you misunderstand, simply conveys sadness. Real human beings are behind these descriptions. Anyone can go to the site and rate sample phrases on a scale from zero to 10. The site pays five cents per rating. Though the writing tips are delivered through a computer program, Eldridge insists he's not trying to make people sound like robots.

ELDRIDGE: The point of it is not to stifle individuality, it's to help you use a little bit of common sense and to assist you in making sure that you are portraying the intended tone that you want.

NORRIS: Common sense also suggests not writing an email when you're angry, period. No exclamation points and no need for all caps. Take a pause, take a deep breath before you hit the send button.

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