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BusINess » Communications Technology » New software can help you decipher the ‘tone’ of your emails

New software can help you decipher the ‘tone’ of your emails

A few months after leaving a job, Kathy Fisher decided to check in with an old co-worker and sent an email that said “Hey, how are you guys doing?”

At least that’s what Fisher, of Whiting, thought it said, which was why she was confused when she got a reply back from her former boss asking why she was spying on the company and if she was now working for a competitor.

“It was totally misconstrued,” said Fisher, who said she had included emoticons in the initial email to convey her friendliness. “Sometimes (email) really does turn around and backfire.”

Matt Eldridge, the founder and CEO of the Canadian-based company Lymbix, Inc., faced a similar problem in his previous job where he was the director of franchising. He discovered that while he was very good at doing business over the phone or in person, he came across as “aggressive or harsh” via email.

“I didn’t like losing deals,” said Eldridge. “I said, ‘There must be a tone check I can download.’”

There wasn’t. So, Eldridge founded Lymbrix, Inc. in 2009 and released a beta version software “ToneCheck” in mid-July 2010 built around the Microsoft Outlook email program. Eldridge describes the software as similar to spell check or grammar check, but it instead checks for tone in words and phrases based on eight emotions. Then, it allows you to make corrections and make sure you send the right message with your message.

Eldridge said he hoped the initial launch would attract a few users who would help work with and tweak the program, but thousands of people downloaded the program, leading Eldridge to believe that his hunch that there was a need for this project, was correct. The program receives help deciding the tone of different words and phrases with toneaday.com, a website created by Lymbix, Inc. The website allows users to label words and phrases with the different emotions used by ToneCheck.

Companies and individuals have started using the program, and Eldridge believes that number will only increase. He said one in four employees prefer to communicate by email or chat and that number is expected to increase to three in four employees by 2020.

A new version of ToneCheck is scheduled to be released in February, he said.

“We’re not stifling creativity, and not trying to make everyone send the same thing,” said Eldridge. “There are some very good writers out there, and there are a lot of people who aren’t good at that. We’re here to assist them.”

Carol Pozos, of Michigan City, said when she was on a board in the past she tended to write short, direct emails, causing others to think she was angry and leading to confusion on the board.

“It’s important to stop and go, ‘Okay, let me think about this as the person reading it,” she said. “And if you really have something you need to say, maybe a phone call would be better.”

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