Everyone has been there. You’re emailing back and forth with someone at work and then all of a sudden, a sentence gives you pause. You think, Wait a second. Is she mad at me?
You reread it. Five minutes go by and you still can’t tell if you somehow offended this person or are completely missing a joke. Eventually, you just craft a vague response and hope for the best.
Tone can be hard to discern and convey over email and any other digital communication. In fact, a 2005 study, amusingly titled “Egocentrism over e-mail,” found that people vastly overestimate how often the recipient of a message will correctly identify their intended tone, whether serious or sarcastic. Senders estimated nearly 80 percent accuracy. In reality, recipients sensed the right tone only 56 percent of the time.