Tone, language, and level of formality

February 04, 2020

Here below few real-world examples to understand the usage of tone, language and level of formality in management communications:

Verbal communication

Stand up meetings

The stand-up meeting is a practice often used by software development teams following the agile methodologies. It is a very informal conversation that happens every morning and participants are teammates, they work together every day, and they should be open to share with other team members what they are focused on and, at the same time, interested in what others are working on. While language is very technical and full of jargon, the tone of the conversations is normally quiet, relaxed and friendly.

First job interview

A manager that is interviewing a candidate for the first time has a unique opportunity to assess a few key traits of this person. For this reason, it is crucial for the hiring manager to be prepared and run the interview in the best way. Umbrella Inc. is a company where management tries to keep an open and informal organisational climate. It is important that a candidate has the chance to feel this internal climate and how, in general, employees relate to each other. For this reason, the manager running the selection process usually structures an interview as an “informal chat”. This mode is used by many interviewers to recruit staff because it can be a good way to quickly build a relationship with the candidate. However, the manager has to be careful not to give the wrong impression of the role, department or company. While the tone of the conversion is relaxed, the hiring manager should be positive, express himself calmly, clearly, concisely, without too many words.

Written communication

Employee handbook

Company regulations, also called the employee handbook, list a company’s policies, procedures and guiding principles. Its purpose is to inform the people who work in the company, so that they know what to expect from the company, and what is expected of them. It is important that a business has an accurate, concise and clearly written manual in order to avoid any legal problems that could arise from a relationship between colleagues, or between employees and superiors. While the communication uses a high level of formality, it is important the language is clear and precise to explain to employees what is expected from them. Especially for the first version, it could be beneficial to ask a specialist (e.g. a lawyer) to review the text before making it public to make sure you are not using language or expressions that could cause legal disputes.

Blog post on the company’s social network

Umbrella Inc. Plc is a distributed organisation with offices in multiple locations across the world and more than 3,500 employees. The company uses an internal social media platform, a website where the workforce can post and share information and ideas similar to what they do on public social media platforms. This platform represents a great opportunity to create dynamics suitable for a horizontal propagation of knowledge, rather than knowledge distributed vertically along the company organisation chart. The tone of voice used there is mainly friendly to promote a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The language is simple to allow everybody to clearly understand the dispatched messages. The use of social media for companies strengthens the sense of belonging to the company and allows the exchange of information, thus making a concrete contribution to the development of good relationships


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Written by Claudio Maccari . Passionate developer and former windsurfer. You can read more about me here