Microsoft is releasing a new feature for Outlook on the web that can scan what you've written and offer rewritten suggestions that can improve the tone of your emails.
As reported by Onmsft, 'Tone Detection', is part of Microsoft Editor and emulates other online editors such as Grammarly, giving you real-time advice on how to better word your communications, as well as punctuation conventions, sensitive geopolitical references and general formality.
The Tone Detection feature is currently in development; the Microsoft 365 Road Map lists a public release of September 2021.
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If you're looking forward to giving Tone Detection a try, then it's worth noting that the feature will be disabled by default for all users, so you'll need to head into the Microsoft Editor Settings menu to enable it. Once the feature is officially released in September, the Outlook web app will add a tone detector feature to its Microsoft Editor’s browser extension.
Analysis: The future of real-time editing
Online writing assistants have been around for years in various forms; spell-checking features have been built into mainframe computers since the late 1970's. Almost every device we now use for typing includes predictive text too, which can help speed up the process of writing messages and emails.
It's likely we will see features like Tone Detection built into browsers and applications going forward given how useful they are in aiding effective communication both inside and outside of the workplace. In situations where a language barrier is present, translation software alone isn't always enough to create an understandable transcript, but developing real-time editing software could result in conversationally accurate translations within the next few years.
Outside of cross-language communication, voice intonation and body language contribute to the tone of a vocal conversation in a way that's difficult to replicate over text. There is a distinction noted between the way that men and women send a professional email that suggests women are more likely to use friendly, expressive language for example.
While the Tone Detection software is more likely to tell you if you've made a grammatical error, or if your message could be misinterpreted, It'll be interesting to see how the AI for editing features makes suggestions for professional language - and if the typically expressive, permissive language used by western women will be seen less favorably to that of 'to the point' messages.
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