For all those times that an e-mail sounds better in your head than it does to the recipient, ToneCheck thinks it can help.
The plug-in, which is in a free-for-now beta for Microsoft Outlook and coming to web-based mail services in the future, reads over your e-mails for emotions such as elation, humiliation, excitement and fear. Users can set thresholds for how much emotion to allow in their e-mails, and ToneCheck essentially acts like a spell checker, flagging words and phrases that might be interpreted the wrong way.
ToneCheck’s website has a demo that shows how it works, but I don’t use Outlook, so I haven’t tried the plug-in myself. If anyone tries it, I’d love to hear how well it works. On that note, it would be wise for ToneCheck to offer a web app in which people could dump text from any source, and if they were sufficiently happy, they could pay for the plug-in on their service of choice.
In general, my feelings about ToneCheck are somewhat similar to my feelings about SarcMark and Open Sarcasm, both of which are intended to express sarcasm as punctuation. For someone with decent writing skills, none of these tools are really necessary. I could see a computerized emotion catcher being downright annoying.
But at least ToneCheck isn’t a substitute for the written word, like SarcMark. It’s just a teacher, designed to stop people from writing e-mails they’ll regret later. If that makes the world — or your inbox — a better place, I’m all for it.