Using Emphasis To Change Meaning

I read an email from a contact yesterday and it came across as really rude! Part of that was their choice of words but most of it was down to where I had put the emphasis in the last sentence.

bitch in a red dress spoke conductive inks phone

The way that we use our tone of voice is a really important part of human communication. Just a small change of emphasis can make an enormous difference!

This can be created by volume; a whispered “Come over here” comes across very differently to the same phrase shouted at the top of your voice.

happy businessman come here concept

But the emphasis you put on a certain word can be equally as significant. “I didn’t say he stole the money” means something very different to “I didn’t say he stole the money”.

Watch this clip from the BBC Shakespeare anniversary celebrations which shows the use of emphasis with a stellar cast to boot!

My supplier’s problem though was that emphasis is REALLY hard to get across in the written word and when you are reading something in your head you may not be putting the emphasis where the writer intended it.

My advice? Assume the best … change the emphasis so it isn’t rude/aggressive/patronising (put in your own irritation here) – and change the tone of voice that you are reading it in. At worst you will be wrong; at best and in the majority of cases, you will have removed an emphasis that was never intended!