ProTip Seven: Strike the right tone

Our ProTip series is designed to help Professionals on create advice that will become the best answer for any student looking for the answer to a question.
2 min readFeb 20, 2017

Introducing ProTip Seven:

“Use an encouraging, empathetic, and professional tone.”

When writing to a student, it’s important to keep your tone positive. A great way to practice positive tone is by validating the student’s question and finishing with a simple “good luck” or “thank you.” Above all else, make sure that your advice lets the student know that they are not alone in what they are facing.

Some examples of positive tone:

  • “Thanks so much for your question!”
  • “Don’t worry you are not alone!… You can do this”
  • “You will face obstacles but I believe you can do this”
  • “Keep moving forward”
  • “Good Luck! Keep us informed on how it goes!”
  • “Thank you for asking! Go and Get ‘Em!”


Students can be very stressed right before reading your advice, so a little encouragement goes a long way. The best answers use encouraging voice. Encouraging exploration and positively supporting all students helps them gain courage to face great challenges.

How do you know it when you see it?

When reading your answer, how do you feel? Your advice should make it clear that you care for the student and want to support them the most you can.

Special note: What do we think of “Tough Love”?

We discourage it on the site. We’ve found that “scaring people straight” tends to work better in person than in written form because written text doesn’t include the facial expressions and warmth that can come from direct face-to-face interactions.

Special note: Should we “sugar coat” the truth?

Absolutely not. The research on education pedagogy shows that the ideal combination of tough message and encouragement follows this structure: “The bar is high. You’re not meeting it yet. But I believe that you can meet the high bar. Here’s what it takes for you to achieve it.”

Examples from the Village

In this answer Dr. Julian is through and through professional and encouraging:

“Congratulations on your interview! I’m sure you will do well…Relax and be yourself…Best of luck to you…”

In this answer Ken asks for a follow up, makes his answers fun to read and makes sure you know you are not alone in your journey:

“Hi Amanda! Do not fear…You are not the first person to seek clarification of career goals…Here is a fun way for you to get some clarity…Best of luck! Keep me posted. I would like to follow your progress…”

What’s next?

  1. To see the next ProTip, head over to ProTip #8: Use Proper Grammar, Formatting, and Structure or go back to ProTip #6: Cite your source.
  2. Share your thoughts with us by emailing us ( or in the comments below!



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