A technical workaround for lack of social skills?

You have spell-check to help you avoid embarrassing typos, but what if your email is still problematic? Could it be your tone? Toni Bowers discovers ToneCheck.

For the most part, spell-check is a good thing. It's a little tough for those of us who write about tech careers, because it doesn't quite get certification abbreviations. But for your average Joe, it can prevent some embarrassing moments.

Now if we could only do something about the tone some communications take. If there was a tool that could let an emailer know that the way he is saying something might be misconstrued, well.....wait! There is such a tool.

ToneCheck, created by a Canadian company is an Outlook plug-in that identifies potential problem phrases before your email is sent.

Matt Eldridge, who came up with the idea for the program, described for NPR how tone can make a difference in an email message. "You misunderstood, as opposed to: You misunderstand. You know, the literal meaning is the same. But emotionally, I mean it makes you feel different." (I'm not clear on which one is better.)

The main page on the ToneCheck site actually cites a bad example of email tone in this one: "Bob, you should get off your pedestal and listen to your sales team." The phrase "get off your pedestal" is highlighted and marked with an unhappy face icon. Really? That needed to be clarified?

I think the plug-in should come with a feature where, after so many "fails" like the one above, that user has to be banned from email forever.