Free software politely puts an end to offensive email

Free software politely puts an end to offensive emailAs every parent knows, sometimes it's not what is said that shreds the last, frazzled nerve -- it's the tone. The same goes for email. The message, "Going fishing for three days. Good luck, suckers" might mean the same as, "I'll be taking three vacation days starting Wednesday," but one version could get you fired.

For those of us who struggle with the finer points of anti-inflammatory email communication, Canadian-based software company, Lymbix recently introduced ToneCheck, free, online-software to help us check ourselves before we wreck ourselves (to paraphrase the wise words of Ice Cube). The email plug-in is currently available for use with Microsoft Outlook, and acts as a cross between an English teacher, a personalized anger management consultant, and spell check.

Matt Eldridge, CEO and Founder of Lymbix said he was inspired to create ToneCheck in 2008 after learning he had lost a potential client due to the unintended tone of an email. Eldridge believes his experience is not unique.

In fact, Lymbix points to studies that reveal email messages are interpreted incorrectly a whopping 50% of the time.

"ToneCheck ensures your tone is clearly communicated and understood before you hit the send button. It evaluates words and phrases for the intensity of eight primary emotions (both positive and negative), allowing you to make corrections and adjust the overall tone before you send the wrong message."

The email app works by flagging sentences with words or phrases that may convey "unintended emotion or tone" that is overly negative, or perhaps reprehensibly perky. Think: curse words (duh), or phrases that relay fear, anger, loathing, humiliation, or shame. In the unintentionally upbeat and annoying category, ToneCheck will seek and destroy sentences sugar coated with affection, elation, contentment, amusement, or gratitude. Hmmm ... guilty of gratitude? Really?

Users set their own sensitivity levels for what is allowed. Once installed, the program scans email and suggests ways to rewrite offending sentences.

"ToneCheck for Outlook is in beta and we're ramping up to build versions for other mail clients based on demand," says Eldridge. "We're signing up early adopters for both Mac and web-based versions of the tool and hope to release them in
late 2010."

In the meantime to boldly paraphrase the advice of my dearly-departed Nana: "If you don't have anything nice to say ... don't hit send."

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but flaming emails might hurt you too. Word.

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