Tone in Writing: 42 Examples of Tone For All Types of Writing
by Joe Bunting | 0 comments
What is tone in writing and why does it matter?
Tone is key to all communication. Think of the mother telling her disrespectful child, “Watch your tone, young man.” Or the sarcastic, humorous tone of a comedian performing stand up. Or the awe filled way people speak about their favorite musician, author, or actor. Or the careful, soft tones that people use with each other when they first fall in love.
Tone is communication, sometimes more than the words being used themselves.
So then how do you use tone in writing, and how does tone influence the meaning of a writing piece?
In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about how to use tone in all types of writing, from creative writing to academic and even business writing. You'll learn what tone actually is in writing and how it's conveyed. You'll learn the forty-two types of tone in writing, plus even have a chance to test your tone recognition with a practice exercise.
Ready to become a tone master? Let's get started.
Why You Should Listen To Me?
I've been a professional writer for more than a decade, writing in various different formats and styles. I've written formal nonfiction books, descriptive novels, humorous memoir chapters, and conversational but informative online articles (like this one!).
Which is all to say, I earn a living in part by matching the right tone to each type of writing I work on. I hope you find the tips on tone below useful!
Table of Contents
Definition of Tone in Writing Why Tone Matters in Writing 42 Types of Tone Plus Tone Examples How to Choose the Right Tone for Your Writing Piece Tone Writing Identification Exercise Tone Vs. Voice in Writing The Role of Tone in Different Types of Writing
Tone in Creative Writing Tone in Academic Writing Tone in Business Writing Tone in Online Writing
Conclusion: How to Master Tone Practice Exercise
Definition of Tone in Writing
Examples of tone can be formal, informal, serious, humorous, sarcastic, optimistic, pessimistic, and many more (see below for all forty-two examples)
Why Does Tone Matter in Writing
I once saw a version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in which the dialogue had been completely translated into various Indian dialects, including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and more. And yet, despite not knowing any of those languages, I was amazed to find that I could follow the story perfectly, infinitely better than the average Shakespeare in the park play.
How could I understand the story so well despite the fact that it was in another language? In part, it was the skill of the actors and their body language. But one of the biggest ways that the actors communicated meaning was one thing.
Their tone of voice.
Tone is one of the most important ways we grasp the meaning of what someone is saying. If someone says, “I love you,” in an angry, sneering way, it doesn't matter what their words are saying, the meaning will be completely changed by their tone.
In the same way, tone is crucial in writing because it significantly influences how readers interpret and react to the text. Here are a few reasons why tone is important:
- Tone conveys feeling. The tone reflects the writer's attitude toward the subject and the audience, helping to shape readers' perceptions and emotional responses.
- Tone can help readers understand the meaning of the text. A well-chosen tone can clarify meaning, making it easier for readers to understand the writer's intent and message.
- Tone is engaging! As humans, we are designed to respond to emotion and feeling! Tone can help to engage or disengage readers. A relatable or compelling tone can draw readers in, while an off-putting tone can push them away.
- Tone sets the mood. Tone can set the mood or atmosphere of a piece of writing, influencing how readers feel as they go through the text.
- Tone persuades. In persuasive writing, tone plays a significant role in influencing how convincing or compelling your arguments are.
- Tone reflects professionalism. In professional or academic contexts, maintaining an appropriate tone is crucial to uphold the writer's authority.
42 Types of Tone in Writing Plus Examples of Tone
Tone is about feeling—the feeling of a writer toward the topic and audience. Which means that nearly any attitude or feeling can be a type of tone, not just the forty-two listed below.
However, you have to start somewhere, so here a list of common tones that can be used in writing, with an example for each type:
- Example : “Upon analysis of the data, it's evident that the proposed hypothesis is substantiated.”
- Example : “Hey folks, today we'll be chatting about the latest trends in tech.”
- Example : “The implications of climate change on our future generations cannot be overstated.”
- Example : “Why don't scientists trust atoms? Because they make up everything!”
- Example : “Oh great, another diet plan. Just what I needed!”
- Example : “Despite the setbacks, we remain confident in our ability to achieve our goals.”
- Example : “Given the declining economy, it's doubtful if small businesses can survive.”
- Example : “We must act now! Every moment we waste increases the danger.”
- Example : “The experiment concluded with the subject showing a 25% increase in performance.”
- Example : “I've always found the taste of coffee absolutely heavenly.”
- Example : “We owe our success to the ceaseless efforts of our esteemed team.”
- Example : “So much for their ‘revolutionary' product. It's as exciting as watching paint dry.”
- Example : “The film's plot was so predictable it felt like a tiresome déjà vu.”
- Example : “Every setback is a setup for a comeback. Believe in your potential.”
- Example : “A politician making promises? Now there's something new.”
- Example : “We must fight to protect our planet—it's the only home we have.”
- Example : “Whether it rains or shines tomorrow, it makes little difference to me.”
- Example : “As the doors creaked open, a chilling wind swept through the abandoned mansion.”
- Example : “She gazed at the fading photograph, lost in the echoes of a time long past.”
- Example : “The fire station caught on fire—it's almost poetic, isn't it?”
- Example : “I can understand how challenging this period has been for you.”
- Example : “His excuse for being late was as pathetic as it was predictable.”
- Example : “Our feline companion has gone to pursue interests in a different locale” (meaning: the cat ran away).
- Example : “Your report is due by 5 PM tomorrow, no exceptions.”
- Example : “So, you've got a hankering to learn about star constellations—well, you're in the right place!”
- Example : “She tiptoed down the dim hallway, every shadow pulsating with the mysteries of her childhood home.”
- Example : “With the approaching footsteps echoing in his ears, he quickly hid in the dark alcove, heart pounding.”
- Example : “His eyes were a stormy sea, and in their depths, she found an anchor for her love.”
- Example : “In the heart of the mystical forest, nestled between radiant will-o'-the-wisps, was a castle spun from dreams and starlight.”
- Example : “The quantum mechanical model posits that electrons reside in orbitals, probabilistic regions around the nucleus, rather than fixed paths.”
- Example : “When constructing a thesis statement, it's crucial to present a clear, concise argument that your paper will substantiate.”
- Example : “The juxtaposition of light and dark imagery in the novel serves to illustrate the dichotomy between knowledge and ignorance.”
- Example : “Upon deconstructing the narrative, one can discern the recurrent themes of loss and redemption.”
- Example : “One must remember, however, that the epistemological underpinnings of such an argument necessitate a comprehensive understanding of Kantian philosophy.”
- Example : “The ephemeral nature of existence prompts us to contemplate the purpose of our pursuits and the value of our accomplishments.”
- Example : “She left the room.”
- Example : “Global warming is a major issue that needs immediate attention.”
- Example : “Maybe she’ll come tomorrow, I thought, watching the cars pass by, headlights blurring in the rain—oh, to be somewhere else, anywhere, the beach maybe, sand between my toes, the smell of the sea…”
- Example : “In the quiet solitude of the night, I grappled with my fears, my hopes, my dreams—how little I understood myself.”
- Example : “The autumn leaves crunched underfoot, their vibrant hues of scarlet and gold painting a brilliant tapestry against the crisp, cerulean sky.”
- Example : “Looking back on my childhood, I see a time of joy and innocence, a time when the world was a playground of endless possibilities.”
- Example : “Gazing up at the star-studded sky, I was struck by a sense of awe; the universe's vast expanse dwarfed my existence, reducing me to a speck in the cosmic canvas.”
- Example : “His unwavering determination in the face of adversity serves as a shining beacon for us all, inspiring us to strive for our dreams, no matter the obstacles.”
Any others that we forgot? Leave a comment and let us know!
Remember, tone can shift within a piece of writing, and a writer can use more than one tone in a piece depending on their intent and the effect they want to create.
The tones used in storytelling are particularly broad and flexible, as they can shift and evolve according to the plot's developments and the characters' arcs.
How do you choose the right tone for your writing piece?
The tone of a piece of writing is significantly determined by its purpose, genre, and audience. Here's how these three factors play a role:
- Purpose: The main goal of your writing guides your tone. If you're trying to persuade someone, you might adopt a passionate, urgent, or even a formal tone, depending on the subject matter. If you're trying to entertain, a humorous, dramatic, or suspenseful tone could be suitable. For educating or informing, an objective, scholarly, or didactic tone may be appropriate.
- Genre: The type of writing also influences the tone. For instance, academic papers often require a formal, objective, or scholarly tone, while a personal blog post might be more informal and conversational. Similarly, a mystery novel would have a suspenseful tone, a romance novel a romantic or passionate tone, and a satirical essay might adopt an ironic or sarcastic tone.
- Audience: Understanding your audience is crucial in setting the right tone. Professional audiences may expect a formal or respectful tone, while a younger audience might appreciate a more conversational or even irreverent tone. Furthermore, if your audience is familiar with the topic, you can use a more specialized or cerebral tone. In contrast, for a general audience, a clear and straightforward tone might be better.
It's also worth mentioning that the tone can shift within a piece of writing. For example, a novel might mostly maintain a dramatic tone, but could have moments of humor or melancholy. Similarly, an academic paper could be mainly objective but might adopt a more urgent tone in the conclusion to emphasize the importance of the research findings.
In conclusion, to choose the right tone for your writing, consider the intent of your piece, the expectations of the genre, and the needs and preferences of your audience. And don't forget, maintaining a consistent tone is key to ensuring your message is received as intended.
How to Identify Tone in Writing
How do you identify the tone in various texts (or even in your own writing)? What are the key indicators that help you figure out what tone a writing piece is?
Identifying the tone in a piece of writing can be done by focusing on a few key elements:
- Word Choice (Diction): The language an author uses can give you strong clues about the tone. For instance, formal language with lots of technical terms suggests a formal or scholarly tone, while casual language with slang or contractions suggests an informal or conversational tone.
- Sentence Structure (Syntax): Longer, complex sentences often indicate a formal, scholarly, or descriptive tone. Shorter, simpler sentences can suggest a more direct, informal, or urgent tone.
- Punctuation: The use of punctuation can also impact tone. Exclamation marks may suggest excitement, urgency, or even anger. Question marks might indicate confusion, curiosity, or sarcasm. Ellipsis (…) can suggest suspense, uncertainty, or thoughtfulness.
- Figurative Language: The use of metaphors, similes, personification, and other literary devices can help set the tone. For instance, an abundance of colorful metaphors and similes could suggest a dramatic, romantic, or fantastical tone.
- Mood: The emotional atmosphere of the text can give clues to the tone. If the text creates a serious, somber mood, the tone is likely serious or melancholic. If the mood is light-hearted or amusing, the tone could be humorous or whimsical.
- Perspective or Point of View: First-person narratives often adopt a subjective, personal, or reflective tone. Third-person narratives can have a range of tones, but they might lean towards being more objective, descriptive, or dramatic.
- Content: The subject matter itself can often indicate the tone. A text about a tragic event is likely to have a serious, melancholic, or respectful tone. A text about a funny incident will probably have a humorous or light-hearted tone.
By carefully analyzing these elements, you can determine the tone of a text. In your own writing, you can use these indicators to check if you're maintaining the desired tone consistently throughout your work.
Tone Writing Exercise: Identify the tone in each of the following sentences
Let’s do a little writing exercise by identifying the tones of the following example sentences.
- “The participants in the study displayed a significant improvement in their cognitive abilities post intervention.”
- “Hey guys, just popping in to share some cool updates from our team!”
- “The consequences of climate change are dire and demand immediate attention from world leaders.”
- “I told my wife she should embrace her mistakes. She gave me a hug.”
- “Despite the challenges we've faced this year, I'm confident that brighter days are just around the corner.”
- “Given the state of the economy, it seems unlikely that we'll see any significant improvements in the near future.”
- “No mountain is too high to climb if you believe in your ability to reach the summit.”
- “As she stepped onto the cobblestone streets of the ancient city, the echoes of its rich history whispered in her ears.”
- “Oh, you're late again? What a surprise.”
- “The methodology of this research hinges upon a quantitative approach, using statistical analysis to derive meaningful insights from the collected data.”
Give them a try. I’ll share the answers at the end!
Tone Versus Voice in Writing
Tone and voice in writing are related but distinct concepts:
Voice is the unique writing style or personality of the writing that makes it distinct to a particular author. It's a combination of the author's syntax, word choice, rhythm, and other stylistic elements.
Voice tends to remain consistent across different works by the same author, much like how people have consistent speaking voices.
For example, the voice in Ernest Hemingway's work is often described as minimalist and straightforward, while the voice in Virginia Woolf's work is more stream-of-consciousness and introspective.
Tone , on the other hand, refers to the attitude or emotional qualities of the writing. It can change based on the subject matter, the intended audience, and the purpose of the writing.
In the same way that someone's tone of voice can change based on what they're talking about or who they're talking to, the tone of a piece of writing can vary. Using the earlier examples, a work by Hemingway might have a serious, intense tone, while a work by Woolf might have a reflective, introspective tone.
So, while an author's voice remains relatively consistent, the tone they use can change based on the context of the writing.
Tone and voice are two elements of writing that are closely related and often work hand in hand to create a writer's unique style. Here's how they can be used together:
- Consistency: A consistent voice gives your writing a distinctive personality, while a consistent tone helps to set the mood or attitude of your piece. Together, they create a uniform feel to your work that can make your writing instantly recognizable to your readers.
- Audience Engagement: Your voice can engage readers on a fundamental level by giving them a sense of who you are or the perspective from which you're writing. Your tone can then enhance this engagement by setting the mood, whether it's serious, humorous, formal, informal, etc., depending on your audience and the purpose of your writing.
- Clarity of Message: Your voice can express your unique perspective and values, while your tone can help convey your message clearly by fitting the context. For example, a serious tone in an academic research paper or a casual, friendly tone in a personal blog post helps your audience understand your purpose and message.
- Emotional Impact: Voice and tone together can create emotional resonance. A distinctive voice can make readers feel connected to you as a writer, while the tone can evoke specific emotions that align with your content. For example, a melancholic tone in a heartfelt narrative can elicit empathy from the reader, enhancing the emotional impact of your story.
- Versatility: While maintaining a consistent overall voice, you can adjust your tone according to the specific piece you're writing. This can show your versatility as a writer. For example, you may have a generally conversational voice but use a serious tone for an important topic and a humorous tone for a lighter topic.
Remember, your unique combination of voice and tone is part of what sets you apart as a writer. It's worth taking the time to explore and develop both.
The Role of Tone in Different Types of Writing
Just as different audiences require different tones of voice, so does your tone change depending on the audience of your writing.
Tone in Creative Writing
Tone plays a crucial role in creative writing, shaping the reader's experience and influencing their emotional response to the work. Here are some considerations for how to use tone in creative writing:
- Create Atmosphere: Tone is a powerful tool for creating a specific atmosphere or mood in a story. For example, a suspenseful tone can create a sense of tension and anticipation, while a humorous tone can make a story feel light-hearted and entertaining.
- Character Development: The tone of a character's dialogue and thoughts can reveal a lot about their personality and emotional state. A character might speak in a sarcastic tone, revealing a cynical worldview, or their internal narrative might be melancholic, indicating feelings of sadness or regret.
- Plot Development: The tone can shift with the plot, reflecting changes in the story's circumstances. An initially optimistic tone might become increasingly desperate as a situation worsens, or a serious tone could give way to relief and joy when a conflict is resolved.
- Theme Expression: The overall tone of a story can reinforce its themes. For instance, a dark and somber tone could underscore themes of loss and grief, while a hopeful and inspirational tone could enhance themes of resilience and personal growth.
- Reader Engagement: A well-chosen tone can engage the reader's emotions, making them more invested in the story. A dramatic, high-stakes tone can keep readers on the edge of their seats, while a romantic, sentimental tone can make them swoon.
- Style and Voice: The tone is part of the writer's unique voice and style. The way you blend humor and seriousness, or the balance you strike between formal and informal language, can give your work a distinctive feel.
In creative writing, it's important to ensure that your tone is consistent, unless a change in tone is intentional and serves a specific purpose in your story. An inconsistent or shifting tone can be jarring and confusing for the reader. To check your tone, try reading your work aloud, as this can make shifts in tone more evident.
Tone in Academic Writing
In academic writing, the choice of tone is crucial as it helps to establish credibility and convey information in a clear, unambiguous manner. Here are some aspects to consider about tone in academic writing:
- Formal: Academic writing typically uses a formal tone, which means avoiding colloquialisms, slang, and casual language. This helps to maintain a level of professionalism and seriousness that is appropriate for scholarly work. For instance, instead of saying “experts think this is really bad,” a more formal phrasing would be, “scholars have identified significant concerns regarding this matter.”
- Objective: The tone in academic writing should usually be objective, rather than subjective. This means focusing on facts, evidence, and logical arguments rather than personal opinions or emotions. For example, instead of saying “I believe that climate change is a major issue,” an objective statement would be, “Research indicates that climate change poses substantial environmental risks.”
- Precise: Precision is crucial in academic writing, so the tone should be specific and direct. Avoid vague or ambiguous language that might confuse the reader or obscure the meaning of your argument. For example, instead of saying “several studies,” specify the exact number of studies or name the authors if relevant.
- Respectful: Even when critiquing other scholars' work, it's essential to maintain a respectful tone. This means avoiding harsh or judgmental language and focusing on the intellectual content of the argument rather than personal attacks.
- Unbiased: Strive for an unbiased tone by presenting multiple perspectives on the issue at hand, especially when it's a subject of debate in the field. This shows that you have a comprehensive understanding of the topic and that your conclusions are based on a balanced assessment of the evidence.
- Scholarly: A scholarly tone uses discipline-specific terminology and acknowledges existing research on the topic. However, it's also important to explain any complex or specialized terms for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with them.
By choosing an appropriate tone, you can ensure that your academic writing is professional, credible, and accessible to your intended audience. Remember, the tone can subtly influence how your readers perceive your work and whether they find your arguments convincing.
Tone in Business Writing
In business writing, your tone should be professional, clear, and respectful. Here are some aspects to consider:
- Professional and Formal: Just like in academic writing, business writing typically uses a professional and formal tone. This ensures that the communication is taken seriously and maintains an air of professionalism. However, remember that “formal” doesn't necessarily mean “stiff” or “impersonal”—a little warmth can make your writing more engaging.
- Clear and Direct: Your tone should also be clear and direct. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstanding, which can have negative consequences in a business setting. Make sure your main points are obvious and not hidden in jargon or overly complex sentences.
- Respectful: Respect is crucial in business communication. Even when addressing difficult topics or delivering bad news, keep your tone courteous and considerate. This fosters a positive business relationship and shows that you value the other party.
- Concise: In the business world, time is often at a premium. Therefore, a concise tone—saying what you need to say as briefly as possible—is often appreciated. This is where the minimalist tone can shine.
- Persuasive: In many situations, such as a sales pitch or a negotiation, a persuasive tone is beneficial. This involves making your points convincingly, showing enthusiasm where appropriate, and using language that motivates the reader to act.
- Neutral: In situations where you're sharing information without trying to persuade or express an opinion, a neutral tone is best. For example, when writing a business report or summarizing meeting minutes, stick to the facts without letting personal bias influence your language.
By adapting your tone based on these guidelines and the specific context, you can ensure your business writing is effective and appropriate.
Tone in Online Writing
Online writing can vary greatly depending on the platform and purpose of the content. However, some common considerations for tone include:
- Conversational and Informal: Online readers often prefer a more conversational, informal tone that mimics everyday speech. This can make your writing feel more personal and relatable. Blogs, social media posts, and personal websites often employ this tone.
- Engaging and Enthusiastic: With so much content available online, an engaging and enthusiastic tone can help grab readers' attention and keep them interested. You can express your passion for a topic, ask questions, or use humor to make your writing more lively and engaging.
- Clear and Direct: Just like in business and academic writing, clarity is key in online writing. Whether you're writing a how-to article, a product description, or a blog post, make your points clearly and directly to help your readers understand your message.
- Descriptive and Vivid: Because online writing often involves storytelling or explaining complex ideas, a descriptive tone can be very effective. Use vivid language and sensory details to help readers visualize what you're talking about.
- Authoritative: If you're writing content that's meant to inform or educate, an authoritative tone can help establish your credibility. This involves demonstrating your knowledge and expertise on the topic, citing reliable sources, and presenting your information in a confident, professional manner.
- Optimistic and Inspirational: Particularly for motivational blogs, self-help articles, or other content meant to inspire, an optimistic tone can be very effective. This involves looking at the positive side of things, encouraging readers, and offering hope.
Remember, the best tone for online writing depends heavily on your audience, purpose, and platform. Always keep your readers in mind, and adapt your tone to suit their needs and expectations.
How to Master Tone
Tone isn't as hard as you think.
If you've ever said something with feeling in your voice or with a certain attitude, you know how it works.
And while mastering the word choice, syntax, and other techniques to use tone effectively can be tricky, just by choosing a tone, being aware of tone in your writing, and making a concerted effort to practice it will add depth and style to your writing, heightening both the meaning and your audiences enjoyment.
Remember, we all have tone. You just need to practice using it. Happy writing!
What tone do you find yourself using the most in your writing ? Let us know in the comments .
Here are two writing exercises for you to practice tone.
Exercise 1: Identify the Tone
Using the ten identification examples above, write out the tones for each of the examples. Then use this answer guide to check your work.
How many did you get correctly? Let me know in the comments .
Exercise 2: Choose One Tone and Write
Choose one of the tones above, set a timer for fifteen minutes, then free write in that tone.
When your time's up, post your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here ), and share feedback with a few other writers.
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris , a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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Chapter 11: Tone and Style
11.1 Tone and Style
Tone and style, while often confused, are both important in academic writing. Style also involves word choice, coherence, conciseness, and correctness. This chapter contains sections about each of these elements of style.
Definition of Tone and Style
Tone refers to the type of language a writer uses to address their audience. When writing an email to a friend, for example, you may choose to use an informal or colloquial tone, whereas an essay for an English class requires an academic tone. Compare the two examples below:
Example 1 : The city should just start paying for our rides to school so we can use the bus money for other stuff. If this happens, people will actually start caring about how to get there. Example 2 : If the city gave students free access to public transportation, riding to school for free would not only save students money, but it would also promote the use of public transportation.
While both sentences above convey the same idea, Example 1 illustrates an informal tone or register , while Example 2 displays an academic tone. Therefore, if you were writing a persuasive essay arguing for public transportation, Example 2 would be appropriate. Example 1 should be used when an informal tone is usual, such as in an email, a message to a friend, or a dialogue between two friends in a story.
Style , on the other hand, involves more than just formality and informality. It concerns how clearly we write. Some beginning academic writers think that having wordy and complicated sentences equals having a good writing style, but that can make it difficult for readers to grasp the idea of a text. Essays should be well-written and free of errors, but first they should be clear and logical.
Here are a few useful guidelines to help develop your writing style:
- Avoid using abstract and complex terms, since they tend to confuse rather than impress readers.
- Accept that your writing will always seem clearer to yourself than to others; therefore, do not hesitate to get another reader’s opinion.
- Keep your audience in mind while writing.
- Know the expectations of an academic English writing style.
- Understand how readers decode the information they read.
Review Questions: Definition of Tone and Style
- Think about three kinds of writing you do every day. What tones do they represent?
- List three expectations for academic English writing style.
For questions 3–5, determine whether the tone and style of the sentences below are appropriate or inappropriate for a persuasive essay you are writing for your English composition class. Discuss your answers with a partner.
- The overall quality of the food served to students at school needs to improve. Even though school districts require students to spend hours in science classes learning about nutrition and balanced meals, administrators seem to ignore that the best way to teach is by example. The food most schools serve students is neither nutritious nor tasty. There is a great distance between what students learn they should eat and what they really get at school.
- The food served at school sucks. I don’t eat that stuff, and I never will. Schools should walk their talk and serve us grub that is edible, not that junk that can kill you. When we get pizza, the cheese does not even look like cheese. It looks like some weird alien substance …
- Most students and school staff seem to agree that the food served to students in school cafeterias is not good enough. Why still serve it, then? Well, the reality is that it is not that easy to change things in a school district. This fact illustrates the contradiction between what students learn in classes about health and nutrition and what they actually eat.
Most writers’ problems with word choice come from trying to use words they do not know. At times, you may feel the pressure to use vocabulary that is “fancy” or “smart.” However, using words whose meanings you are not sure of may change your ideas radically. Misspelling a word may also confuse readers. Before using a word you are not sure about, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I sure this is the right word to express my idea?
- To the best of my knowledge, did I spell it correctly?
- Is the word appropriate for this text and my audience?
- If I am not sure about the word I am trying to use, is there another word I can replace it with?
At times, you may also be concerned about reducing the number of mistakes in your writing to obtain a good grade. In such cases, it is best to look up the words you do not know. If you are not allowed to look them up, take a safer approach and replace them with another word you know.
In order to avoid problems with the words you choose, read often. Books, magazines, newspapers, and blogs are among the many useful reading resources that will expose you to new words and help you expand your vocabulary.
The following sections will help you make more informed decisions about choosing words for your work.
Denotation and connotation
Words may carry a denotative (literal) meaning or a connotative (figurative, implied) meaning. For example, when writing a description of the place you live in, you may call it a “home,” a “house,” or a “residence.” These three words denote or indicate the same place. However, their connotative meaning is different. “Home” refers to a warmer place than “house.” “Residence” probably carries very little feeling compared to the other two words.
Connotative meanings of words may be positive, negative, or sometimes neutral, depending on what you are writing and who you are writing for. For example, informal words that may carry a neutral or positive connotation in a letter to a friend may have a negative connotation in an argumentative essay. In this lesson and subsequent practice exercises, assume your audience expects an academic tone.
Consider both denotative and connotative meanings of a word before using it. Some words have a negative connotation and may not be appropriate for your work.
The table below contains words with both positive and negative connotations when used in a persuasive essay. Read and compare them.
Review Questions: Word Choice
Assuming your readers expect an academic tone, replace the words in bold with other words carrying more positive connotations.
- The peeps at my school voted against having makeup classes on Saturday. (Replace “The peeps at my school”)
- When I asked my li’l bro if he was hooked on video games, he went , “Of course I’m not!” (Replace “li’l bro,” “hooked on,” and “he went.”)
- She goes up to this guy and goes, like, “Who are you?” But when they got chatting , she chilled right out . (Replace “goes up to this guy and goes, like, ‘Who are you?,’ “got chatting,” and “chilled right out.”
Misspelling words can also cause you problems, especially if you write a word that looks similar to the one you want but has a different meaning. The best way to avoid misspellings is to become familiar with the words you often use.
You should also double-check the words suggested by the spell check application on your word processor. Although these programs catch common misspellings, they sometimes make wrong suggestions or simply miss misspelled words.
A few hints to help you avoid spelling errors:
- Make flash cards with the words you frequently use in your essays but have problems spelling. Seeing them often will help you memorize them.
- Keep a vocabulary list at the end of your notebook containing both new words and words you have a hard time spelling.
Consider this list of commonly misspelled words:
Review Questions: Misspelling
Choose the word with the correct spelling. The words in this practice section may not be in the list provided in the Misspelling section , and you may have to use a dictionary to learn their correct spelling.
- Lack of water and fire extinguishers in the room aggravated/agravated the fire.
- Their analysis/analisis of the problem was accurate.
- My parents say that my curfew is not negociable/negotiable .
- The history teacher was irritated when she talked about the omission/omision of an important fact in the students’ exam responses.
- Lawmakers recomended/recommended the bill be changed before the final vote.
Writers need to make sure they address readers in a respectful and unbiased manner. One way to do this is by carefully choosing your nouns and pronouns. For example, when you address people in general, readers will interpret the exclusive use of “he,” “him,” and “his” or “she,” “her”, and “hers” as biased. The suggestions below will help you avoid gender bias in your essays:
- A teacher must consider the background of his students (biased).
- A teacher must consider the students’ backgrounds (unbiased).
- A student knows he must do his homework (biased).
- Students know they have to do their homework (unbiased).
- Teachers must consider the backgrounds of their students (unbiased).
- All salesmen were required to attend the meeting (biased).
- All salespeople were required to attend the meeting (unbiased).
- When a student finished his exam early, he could leave the room (biased).
- When a student finished her or his exam early, she or he could leave the room (unbiased).
- Ali likes basketball. They started playing basketball when they were eight years old.
- When a team member finishes a break, they should proceed directly to the sales floor.
When avoiding gender bias, use the strategies that best fit your personal style, but try not to overuse any one strategy.
Review Questions: Gender Bias
Rewrite the sentences below and eliminate their gender bias. Refer to the strategies given in this section.
- Each doctor will explain her own procedures.
- When you call the technician, tell him the computer broke yesterday.
- According to the guidelines, a writer needs to publish her manuscript in order to be eligible for the grant.
- If I ever meet a congressman, I will tell him how upset I am with politics at the national level.
- When a doctor wants to order gloves, she must speak to the office staff.
The elements in an English sentence have a standard or canonical position. Writers should understand this order of elements because choosing to adhere to it or break it will draw readers’ attention to different elements of a sentence. The canonical order of elements in an English sentence is demonstrated in Table 11.2.
Generally, the subject is the doer or the main character, and the verb expresses the action, state, or description. Other elements may include people or things affected by the action, adverbials (references to time, place, manner, etc), and so on.
While it is true that English writing favours elements in the canonical order, this does not mean you should only write in this order. It means that this sequence should only be broken when there is a clear reason for doing so (adding emphasis, placing old information first, etc.). The canonical order is a principle and not an absolute rule of writing.
The following lessons will help you determine how to shift the order of sentence elements to write cohesive sentences and add emphasis when needed.
Review Questions: Sentence Order
Rewrite the sentences below and redistribute sentence elements according to the canonical order. (Hint: You should start new sentences with the underlined elements.)
- Finally, in a very apologetic tone, the director spoke to us.
- After running for two hours and exercising for another two at the gym last night, Rachel collapsed.
- With words of encouragement after a long and difficult year, the teacher addressed the students.
Characters and Actions
- The mayor’s analysis of the issue did not convince journalists. (Noun = analysis)
- Bob’s explanation of why he was late frustrated his wife. (Noun = explanation)
- The documentary’s description of the accident shocked viewers. (Noun = description)
- The conclusion the scientists reached was that the problem had no solution. (Noun = conclusion)
When your writing highlights important sentence elements, such as characters and actions , your sentences become clear to your readers and naturally draw their attention. Characters are sentence elements that trigger actions or events. They can be concrete (a person, animal, or thing) or abstract (an issue, a concept). Characters are usually nouns or pronouns. Actions describe what characters do or what events they trigger. Actions are expressed by verbs. These concepts are illustrated in the examples below:
Example 1 : Jack’s refusal to leave the worksite resulted in his boss’s decision to call security. Example 2 : Because Jack refused to leave the worksite, his boss decided to call security.
Consider the following differences between the sentences in Example 1 and Example 2:
- The characters of Example 1, Jack and his boss, are part of the subject, but they do not receive the main focus in the sentence. The foci lie in the words “refusal” and “decision.”
- The characters of Example 2, Jack and his boss, receive focus in the subject of each respective clause, and their actions are expressed by the verbs “refused” and “decided,” instead of in the nouns “refusal” and “decision.” Example 2 characters are aligned with their actions.
Notice that Example 1 draws readers’ attention to the abstract nouns “refusal” and “decision.” Even though it is possible to use abstract nouns as characters when you write about abstract issues, this example shows that it can be a bad decision when you use them in lieu of clear characters and their actions.
The alignment between characters and their actions makes sentences like Example 2 more powerful. It is easy to turn type-1 sentences into type-2 ones. All you need is to play a simple game of verbs and nouns, as shown in Table 11.3 in review question 1 for this section.
The old-before-new principle guides how writers should sequence information in a sentence. According to this principle, they should use the information readers already know to introduce information they do not know yet. This principle helps direct readers from familiar or old information to new information. Analyze this first set of examples:
Example 1 : The science teacher spoke about environmental challenges yesterday, and she mentioned five big environmental problems countries will face in the upcoming decade. Carbon-dioxide concentration levels in the atmosphere are increasing rapidly [new information], and this was the first problem she described [old information]. Example 2 : The science teacher spoke about environmental challenges yesterday, and she mentioned five big environmental problems countries will face in the upcoming decade. She first talked about [old information] the increasing concentration levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere [new information].
The sentence in Example 2 gradually guides the writer from old to new information. Since information is logically displayed in the sentence, readers are not only able to understand it better, but they will also remember it more easily.
Here are some additional examples:
Example 3 : Yesterday, lawmakers finally approved a bill that introduces new rules and regulations to financial markets in Canada. The increase of the government’s regulatory powers [new information] was by far the most controversial of the new measures [old information]. Example 4 : Yesterday, lawmakers finally approved a bill that introduces new rules and regulations to financial markets in Canada. The most controversial measure by far [old information] was the increase of the government’s regulatory powers [new information].
Review Questions: Old-before-new
Rewrite the sentences below and apply the old-before-new principle to make them more cohesive.
- The syllabus the instructor gave students yesterday did not include dates for turning in papers or for taking exams. Although all assignments were described in detail, as well as the content for each test, the syllabus did not include when they were due.
- In her email, the principal emphasized that new attendance rules would be in place. She also told us that teachers have found it difficult to maintain lines at the cafeteria during recess, after saying the school would start notifying parents immediately every time a teacher declared a student absent.
The short-to-long principle applies to how writers coordinate elements in a sentence. It suggests you list coordinated elements from short to long, as the sentences below illustrate:
Example 1 : Participants in the study noticed no differences between the first slide scientists projected on the white wall [long element] and the real painting [short element]. Example 2 : Participants in the study noticed no differences between the real painting [short element] and the first slide scientists projected on the white wall [long element].
The short-to-long principle helps you write sentences that are fluid and easy to read.
Review Questions: Short-to-long
Select the sentences below that illustrate a good use of the short-to-long principle.
- A group of five students resolved the test without any assistance, quickly and accurately.
- A group of five students resolved the test quickly, accurately, and without any assistance.
- The upset instructor decided to punish all the students. She did not distinguish between the students who had completed the assignment late and the ones who had not turned in the assignment.
- The upset instructor decided to punish all the students. He did not distinguish between the students who had not turned in the assignment and the ones who had completed the assignment late.
- Parents have not been attending the evening meetings because some work late and others cannot come to school three nights in a row.
- Parents have not been attending the evening meetings because some cannot come to school three nights in a row and others work late.
In English composition, coherence or cohesion describes how harmoniously different parts of a text connect to one another. Writers show coherence when they make sense of their ideas as a whole. They need to be cohesive on two different levels: the paragraph level and the text level.
To achieve paragraph-level coherence, define your topic clearly. The topic is what you write about in a paragraph. You may have learned that the introduction of every paragraph should contain a topic sentence . If you are able to make the sentence topic about the subject , it will be easier for readers to grasp it. Whenever topic and subject align in a sentence, readers will understand what it is about more easily; as a result, your sentence will be more coherent. Compare examples 1 and 2 below:
Example 1 : The ability to learn from mistakes is not exclusively human, and it has been found by scientists in many other animal species . This ability has been detected, for example, in dogs, cats, and other domesticated species . Topic : the ability to learn from mistakes is not only human Characters : dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals
Although the sentence in Example 1 is understandable, its topic and its characters are not aligned. When they are aligned, notice how much more readable the sentence becomes:
Example 2 : Dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals can learn from mistakes, as we humans do [topic and characters]. The discovery of this behaviour in animals has led scientists to conclude it is not exclusively human.
Writers sometimes take a while to get to the topic of their sentences or paragraphs by inserting information that could easily come afterward, or even not appear at all. Consider Example 3:
Example 3 : It is important to note that, after years of discrimination and unheard appeals for justice, politicians finally recognized minority groups needed to have their basic rights written as law .
The introductory clause “it is important to note that” is unnecessary. The writer would not have included the main information if it were not important. Also, the time adverbial “after years of discrimination and unheard appeals for justice” could be placed after the main clause, if it is not needed beforehand as a transition or for emphasis. In the following example, we assume it is not needed as such.
Example 4 : Politicians finally recognized minority groups needed to have their basic rights written as law after years of discrimination and unheard appeals for justice.
In Example 4, both topic and character come first, and the supporting or secondary information comes after. This strategy creates a more readable and coherent sentence.
Coherence also depends on how writers organize their ideas. To keep ideas organized, the thesis statement should function as a map highlighting the organizational pattern of the essay. However, this pattern will affect elements beyond the thesis statement, such as the introduction and body paragraphs. For this reason, you should choose the pattern that works best for your essay as a whole. Take a look at some of the different organizational patterns you may use and what they are good for:
- Chronological order : explaining a step-by-step process, narrating a story, narrating an incident or anecdote from earlier to later
- Cause and effect : explaining a historical event, explaining a scientific finding or process
- Coordinate : explaining the several reasons for a fact or state of affairs
After you have decided on the best organizational pattern for your essay, and your thesis statement is ready, you should ask the following questions:
- Does my thesis statement provide the reader with a map of the essay? That is, upon reading my thesis statement, does the reader understand what I am writing about and what my main points are?
- In each paragraph, do the examples, facts, or illustrations I use relate to and support the topic?
- Does the topic of each paragraph detail one of the points or reasons I included in my thesis statement?
Review Questions: Coherence
Rewrite the following paragraph in order to make it coherent. Some sentences require further correction.
- I believe that technology can help people more in their lives. Nowadays, automation has become very popular in many areas, including agriculture. Vietnam is still an agricultural country, but it is not helped much by high technology, especially the poor farmers. I hope that, in the future, the farmers will enjoy the benefits of automation for a suitable price. The farmers can use a remote control to run a machine that can help them a lot in farming.
(Hint: First, identify the topic of the paragraph and then make it a topic sentence. Then find the characters. After that, decide which information should come after.)
The paragraphs below illustrate the organization pattern of the essays from which they were extracted. Read them and determine which of the three patterns—chronological, cause and effect, and coordinate—they exemplify. After you identify the pattern, write a new paragraph using the same pattern.
- Paragraph 1 : In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey , a group of apes were gathered when something unusual happened: A black monolith emerged from the ground. Some of the apes were shocked, and they did not know how to react, while others decided to investigate the strange object. From this incident, the apes learned to throw and to hit with objects. They used this new skill to fight other animals and get food. This was the beginning of humankind.
- Paragraph 2 : The “American dream” means many different things to many different people. For some, it means religious freedom or the freedom to worship in any way they like without feeling threatened. For others, it is becoming your own boss, a pursuit that just isn’t possible in many countries. For a third group, it is knowing that their hard work will allow their children and grandchildren to have a much better life than they had.
- Paragraph 3 : Many problems could result from climate change. One of the most serious is the rise of sea levels, which could result in the flooding of low-lying coastal areas in countries such as Egypt and the Netherlands. Another negative effect of climate change is its effect on weather patterns. The changing weather has caused a surge in hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters in many areas of the world. A final issue associated with climate change is how it affects biodiversity. Fish populations, for example, could be impacted by changes in water temperature, while some insects that carry disease might become more common throughout the world.
The voice of a verb determines which elements in the sentence will or will not be in focus. In English, the two types of verb voices are active and passive .
When we use active voice:
- the source of the action (agent) appears as the subject
- the receiver of the action (goal) appears as the object
Example : The government [agent] has extended benefits [goal] for the unemployed.
When we use passive voice:
- the receiver of the action (goal) becomes the subject
- the source of the action (agent) may or may not appear
Example : Benefits [goal] for the unemployed have been extended ( by the government ) [agent].
Passive voice is very useful to describe actions whose agents are obvious, not known, or not important. However, in an argumentative essay, passive voice may place your characters at the end of sentences, and this may not be a strong argumentative strategy. In this case, active voice should be used, especially when actions derive from visible characters.
Passive and active voices coexist because each has a distinct function. They allow writers to describe the same phenomenon from two different viewpoints. Writers need to understand the uses of each in order to make informed decisions about when to use either active or passive voice.
Here are a few hints to help you determine which voice may be appropriate in a sentence or description:
Example : The CIA should disclose torture documents to the public.
Example : Very expensive jewellery should not be kept at home.
Example : Students must choose if they want makeup classes either right after school or in the evening. The popular football game schedule and not the academic one [new information] may influence their choice more strongly [old information].
The underlined sentence above is in active voice, and it contains the new piece of information before the old one. In this case, passive voice is a better choice. It will place old information first and increase sentence flow, as the following example shows.
Example : Students must choose if they want makeup classes either right after school or in the evening. Their choice may be more strongly influenced by the popular football game schedule than by the academic one .
Review Questions: Voice
The verbs in the sentences below are in passive voice. Rewrite the sentences and change the verbs to active voice. Make any other changes as needed.
- New skills are learned by students when they are given opportunities by their teachers to take risks.
- In Brown’s article, it is argued that the secret prisons project was carried out by the Secret Service to allow high-risk criminals to be questioned without respect to international law.
- According to the local newspaper, it is believed that the discussion is polarized by citizens’ beliefs about how much the government should intervene in the economy.
In this chapter’s section on sentence order , we learned how to turn nouns into verbs as a strategy to place characters in focus and increase their agency. What we did was an exercise of de-nominalizing : we were turning nouns into actions. A nominalization is just the opposite, and it occurs when we turn a verb or an adjective into a noun.
Example 1 : Bob’s intention was to speak to Kate. Example 2 : Our presentation was about a new plan. Example 3 : We did a survey of 30 people for our study. Example 4 : Jack got the job because of his proficiency in English.
Using nominalization in the wrong context may remove the attention and focus you need for your characters and verbs. Sentences containing too many nominalizations can also end up being too wordy. In order to correct a nominalization, turn a noun back into a verb as per the example above.
Example 1 : Bob intended to speak to Kate.
Review Questions: Nominalization
Rewrite examples 2–4 in this section, correcting their nominalizations.
Points to Consider
- Write two sample paragraphs on any of the suggested topics below. One paragraph should display an appropriate tone for a persuasive essay. The other paragraph should display an informal or colloquial tone.
- In pairs, exchange paragraphs with a partner. Read your partner’s paragraphs and identify which one was written in an academic tone and which was not.
- Schools should replace books with laptops.
- Discuss your academic background and achievements.
- My recipe for stress management.
- When you are not sure about the meaning of a word you want to use, how can you figure out whether or not to use it?
- What is the difference between denotative and connotative meanings?
- Name and provide examples of three different strategies to avoid gender bias.
- When sentences emphasize clear characters and actions, what difference does it make to readers?
- How can you tell if the characters and actions in your sentences have been properly emphasized?
- How does the old-before-new principle help readers?
- How does this principle help connect ideas and sentences to one another?
- Explain paragraph-level coherence.
- Describe two organizational patterns you can use to plan and write a paragraph.
- When is it appropriate to use passive voice?
- When is it not appropriate to use passive voice?
Building Blocks of Academic Writing by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.
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What Is Tone In Writing?
Learn More With This Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms
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- An Introduction to Punctuation
- Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
- M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
- B.A., English, State University of New York
In composition , tone is the expression of a writer's attitude toward subject , audience , and self.
Tone is primarily conveyed in writing through diction , point of view , syntax , and level of formality.
Etymology : From the Latin, "string, a stretching"
"In Writing: A Manual for the Digital Age," David Blakesley and Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen make a simple distinction between style and tone: " Style refers to the overall flavor and texture created by the writer's word choices and sentence structures . Tone is an attitude toward the events of the story—humorous, ironic, cynical, and so on." In practice, there's a close connection between style and tone.
Tone and Persona
In Thomas S. Kane's "The New Oxford Guide to Writing," "If persona is the complex personality implicit in the writing, tone is a web of feelings stretched throughout an essay , feelings from which our sense of the persona emerges. Tone has three main strands: the writer's attitude toward subject, reader , and self.
"Each of these determinants of tone is important, and each has many variations. Writers may be angry about a subject or amused by it or discuss it dispassionately. They may treat readers as intellectual inferiors to be lectured (usually a poor tactic) or as friends with whom they are talking. Themselves they may regard very seriously or with an ironic or an amused detachment (to suggest only three of numerous possibilities). Given all these variables, the possibilities of tone are almost endless.
"Tone, like persona, is unavoidable. You imply it in the words you select and in how you arrange them."
Tone and Diction
According to W. Ross Winterowd In his book, "The Contemporary Writer," "The main factor in tone is diction , the words that the writer chooses. For one kind of writing, an author may choose one type of vocabulary, perhaps slang , and for another, the same writer may choose an entirely different set of words... "Even such small matters as contractions make a difference in tone, the contracted verbs being less formal:
It is strange that the professor had not assigned any papers for three weeks. It's strange that the professor hadn't assigned any papers for three weeks."
Tone in Business Writing
Philip C. Kolin reminds us of how important it is to get the tone just right in business correspondence in "Successful Writing at Work." He says, " Tone in writing...can range from formal and impersonal (a scientific report) to informal and personal (an email to a friend or a how-to article for consumers). Your tone can be unprofessionally sarcastic or diplomatically agreeable.
"Tone, like style , is indicated in part by the words you choose...
"The tone of your writing is especially important in occupational writing because it reflects the image you project to your readers and thus determines how they will respond to you, your work, and your company. Depending on your tone, you can appear sincere and intelligent or angry and uninformed... The wrong tone in a letter or a proposal might cost you a customer."
The following examples are from Dona Hickey's book, "Developing a Written Voice" where she quotes Lawrence Roger Thompson who was quoting Robert Frost. "Robert Frost believed sentence tones (which he called 'sound of sense') are 'already there—living in the cave of the mouth.' He considered them 'real cave things: they were before words were' (Thompson 191). To write a 'vital sentence,' he believed, 'we must write with the ear on the speaking voice' (Thompson 159). 'The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader. Eye readers miss the best part. The sentence sound often says more than the words' (Thompson 113). According to Frost:
Only when we are making sentences so shaped [by spoken sentence tones] are we truly writing. A sentence must convey a meaning by tone of voice and it must be the particular meaning the writer intended. The reader must have no choice in the matter. The tone of voice, and its meaning must be in black and white on the page (Thompson 204).
"In writing, we can't indicate body language , but we can control how sentences are heard. And it is through our arrangement of words into sentences, one after another, that we can approximate some of the intonation in speech that tells our readers not only information about the world but also how we feel about it, who we are in relationship to it, and who we think our readers are in relationship to us and the message we want to deliver."
Novelist Samuel Butler once said, "We are not won by arguments that we can analyze but by the tone and temper, by the manner which is the man himself."
Blakesley, David and Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen. Writing: A Manual for the Digital Age. Cengage, 2011.
Hickey, Dona. Developing a Written Voice . Mayfield, 1992.
Kane, Thomas S. The New Oxford Guide to Writing . Oxford University Press, 1988.
Kolin, Philip C. Successful Writing at Work, Concise Edition . 4th ed., Cengage, 2015.
Winterowd, W. Ross. The Contemporary Writer: A Practical Rhetoric. 2nd ed., Harcourt, 1981.
- Definition and Examples of Rhetorical Stance
- Thesis: Definition and Examples in Composition
- The Writer's Voice in Literature and Rhetoric
- Sentence Variety Composition
- What Is Style in Writing?
- What Is a Sentence Fragment in Writing?
- Description in Rhetoric and Composition
- 12 Writers Discuss Writing
- How to Format and Write a Simple Business Letter
- Point of View in Grammar and Composition
- Best Practices for Business Writing
- AP English Exam: 101 Key Terms
- Rhetorical Analysis Definition and Examples
- Direct Question in Grammar
- What E.B. White Has to Say About Writing
- What Is Proposal Writing?
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148+ Types Tone In Writing With Examples
By pankil shah.
Table of Contents
The tone of writing can create an overall impression that influences how people feel about what they read, whether positively or negatively.
You can write in many different genres and tones — such as authoritative, questioning, or argumentative — but which one should you use? And how do these affect how your readers feel? Let’s dive in!
What Is Tone of Writing?
The tone of writing shows an author’s attitude or intent. The tone is the essence of the voice, which is how a writer conveys their thoughts to the reader. You can identify a writer’s tone through specific words, phrases, and sentence structures.
Tone can also reveal how certain parts of a written piece are meant to be interpreted by readers. For example, you could use irony or sarcasm when describing something unpleasant to demonstrate how terrible it was.
What Is the Importance and Purpose of Tone of Writing?
When writing, you should consider what you want your audience to feel. Tone doesn’t just convey facts and information — it also aims to elicit emotions from your reader through persuasion.
You have to be careful in choosing which kind of emotion or persuasive element works best for you and what type of relationship it creates with your readership. The tone should be used as an emotional motivator so the reader continues to read further and share your content with others.
Whether you’re writing content for SEO , technical , or internal enablement purposes, understanding how to use tones in writing can be crucial to connecting with your target audience.
What Are the 9 Most Common Types of Tone?
1. appreciative tone.
An appreciative tone is usually used when the writer has just finished something that they really enjoyed or were impressed by. It should always come across as honest and genuine.
Appreciative Tone Examples
- I loved your essay!
- That’s amazing; you’re so talented!
2. Cautionary Tone
A cautionary tone is typically used when something potentially dangerous or negative might happen. This type of tone uses harsh language and treats its subject very seriously.
Cautionary Tone Examples
- Be careful driving in this area without your seatbelt on!
- Watch out for that crazy driver who just pulled out into traffic.
3. Diplomatic Tone
A diplomatic tone is notably used in communications between countries and for other international relationships. A diplomatic tone usually has a cautious undertone to it, as the writer doesn’t want to make any assumptions. The voices in this type of writing often have a detached quality that makes them sound formal.
Diplomatic Tone Examples
- It’s still unclear if we can trust these guys.
- Some people may struggle to believe what you’re saying.
4. Direct Tone
A direct tone is usually used in writing when the writer directly expresses what they are thinking. The text is written with a straightforward attitude without any sugar-coating or careful phrasing.
Direct Tone Examples
- Your essay was very short!
- This problem is difficult to solve.
5. Enthusiastic Tone
An enthusiastic tone is typically used in writing when the writer is excited about something. The tone is often inviting and welcoming, even if the reason for the excitement is unclear.
Enthusiastic Tone Examples
- I know you’re up to this challenge!
- You must try their tacos — I’ve never had anything better than them!
6. Informative Tone
An informative tone is generally used in writing when the writer wants to impart knowledge about something. The information might be obtained through research or experience, but it’s always factual, with little-to-no emotions.
Informative Tone Examples
- You should avoid drinking alcohol within six hours before taking your medicine because it will reduce its effectiveness.
- Aloe vera is a popular plant in many countries, and it has been used as an important medicinal ingredient throughout the world.
7. Inspirational Tone
An inspirational tone is often used when somebody needs encouragement and support. The tone of an inspirational piece of writing is typically positive with a sense of hope that can motivate others.
Inspirational Tone Examples
- You can do anything you want, so good luck with the project!
- Keep fighting your hardest; never give up!
8. Thoughtful Tone
A thoughtful tone is often used in writing when the writer expresses their feelings of caring about something. This type of tone focuses on an individual’s thoughts and emotions, not their actions.
Thoughtful Tone Examples
- She told me she loved me.
- I care about your success, so I think you should take this seriously.
9. Witty Tone
Witty writing often uses humor to make a point. A witty tone is typically more informal and can express playfulness or annoyance. This writing type of voice would fit well in blog posts, personal stories, or other writings that take place within the writer’s own life.
Witty Tone Examples
- The thing about this job is that it’s not what you expect after you get hired!
- My mom suggested I write about my experience. She doesn’t even know what my experience was!
145+ Types of Tones and Examples
1. absurd tone.
The absurdity of a sentence can help express frustration in an otherwise serious situation by using humor. This could be useful when you’re trying to explain your feelings but you’re struggling to find words.
Absurd Tone Examples
- It’s just incredible how much money we made today! I hope we broke even.
- Wow, look at all these hungry mosquitoes hovering around me!
2. Accusatory Tone
An accusatory tone is used to express anger or irritation. This type of writing often appears in an article when someone feels wronged by someone else.
Accusatory Tone Examples
- If you’re too lazy to do your job properly, then I don’t want you working for me anymore!
- You’re not nearly as important as you think you are!
3. Acerbic Tone
An acerbic tone is often used when the writer feels anger toward somebody or something, maybe even about things that aren’t very serious. Acerbic writing tends to use sarcasm, irony, bitterness, cynicism, and scornfulness.
Acerbic Tone Examples
- You’re the only thing holding me back.
- I can’t believe they wouldn’t refund my five bucks!
4. Admiring Tone
An admiring tone often appears in writing when people are expressing their admiration, respect, or love for something or someone. It displays confidence and enthusiasm.
Admiring Tone Examples
- I love your work!
- This beautiful dress looks amazing on you!
5. Aggressive Tone
An aggressive tone is often used in an argument or confrontation. It can be found in sentences that express anger, frustration, and other negative emotions.
Aggressive Tone Examples
- You better tell your boss where you’re going next time!
- Just stay away from me.
6. Aggrieved Tone
An aggrieved tone can be defined as showing bitterness, anger, resentment, or disappointment. The tone is typically harsh.
Aggrieved Tone Examples
- I’m sorry you feel that way.
- I regret to say that I’m not going anywhere.
7. Altruistic Tone
An altruistic tone emphasizes the struggles of another individual or group. An altruistic tone shows empathy and understanding for others, without making them feel bad about themselves.
Altruistic Tone Examples
- You’re not alone; thousands of others have gone through the same struggle as you!
- I struggled after my divorce, but now I’m happier than ever before; you’ll get there too. I’m here for you.
8. Ambivalent Tone
An ambivalent tone appears in writing when people are expressing their lack of enthusiasm. This type of sentence typically has a negative connotation.
Ambivalent Tone Examples
- I don’t know if I can make it to dinner tonight.
- I don’t have much to say about him.
9. Amused Tone
An amused tone is used in writing when the writer thinks something is humorous. The tone may be sympathetic or mocking, but it’s usually playful, not very serious.
Amused Tone Examples
- I know how you feel about homework.
- Let’s just laugh at this together.
10. Angry Tone
An angry tone is typically used when the writer wants to convey a sense of frustration or outrage. It can take different forms, such as passive-aggressive, defensive, or sarcastic.
Angry Tone Examples
- I’m so mad right now!
- You need more than just luck — that won’t help you win this competition.
11. Animated Tone
An animated tone expresses the writer’s excitement for something. It could be excited about anything, like someone they love or a sports team winning.
Animated Tone Examples
- Did you see that dunk?
- I can’t believe it’s been ten years since we started dating!
12. Apathetic Tone
An apathetic tone is typically used when the writer feels unmotivated to do something. It can be seen in someone who doesn’t care what’s happening to someone else or has given up on their own efforts.
Apathetic Tone Examples
- I guess you’re out of luck today.
- I tried my best, but I can’t do anything for you.
13. Apologetic Tone
An apologetic tone usually appears when the writer feels regret or embarrassment about something they’ve done. It’s genuine and sincere and usually spans multiple sentences.
Apologetic Tone Examples
- I’m sorry if I offended you with my choice of words. I didn’t mean anything bad at all!
- I’m really sorry about this.
14. Ardent Tone
An ardent tone is typically used when people are expressing their strong feelings toward something or someone. The tone often comes across as passionate and emotional, with a positive connotation.
Ardent Tone Examples
- I really think the party is on the right track.
- You’re not guilty until proven guilty!
15. Arrogant Tone
An arrogant tone typically indicates the writer feels superior to other people. It often displays condescension and dismissal of others, and it’s critical and belittling towards the reader.
Arrogant Tone Examples
- I’m not enjoying myself tonight because you’re here.
- You probably couldn’t even find the way home from your own driveway.
16. Assertive Tone
An assertive tone is usually used in writing when the writer is trying to make a strong point. An assertive tone can be seen as bossy or demanding, but it also means the author has confidence in their opinion.
Assertive Tone Examples
- We need to book soon if we want this place for our wedding ceremony.
- I know I’ll never wear those shoes again!
17. Awestruck Tone
An awestruck tone is usually used when the writer is describing something that impresses them. An awestruck tone can be blissfully romantic. Awestruck writing speaks more to emotions than logic.
Awestruck Tone Examples
- The sky was absolutely beautiful.
- I am so amazed by his singing.
18. Belligerent Tone
A belligerent tone is typically used when a writer wants to express anger or irritation. This type of tone is often aggressive and can be frightening. It helps the writer express their thoughts as if they were screaming at somebody else.
Belligerent Tone Examples
- This blog article was so inaccurate!
- You’re going down now!
19. Benevolent Tone
A benevolent tone is often used to express sentiments of love, affection, and appreciation. This type of writing focuses on helping or complimenting others.
Benevolent Tone Examples
- I found this marvelous video for you about birds!
- You look wonderful today!
20. Bitter Tone
A bitter tone is typically used when somebody has been hurt or let down. The writer might resort to sarcasm or mocking the person that had wronged them. The tone is usually negative.
Bitter Tone Examples
- I was so excited to have dinner at my favorite restaurant, only for you to steal my seat!
- If he doesn’t give me back what’s mine, he’ll regret it.
21. Callous Tone
Callous writing tends to be cold, harsh, and without sympathy. The tone can also show aggression or anger. Callous sentences are usually negative in nature.
Callous Tone Examples
- That’s disgusting!
- I hate this place!
22. Candid Tone
A candid tone is typically used when the writer is speaking about something they aren’t completely sure about. A candid sentence has a non-judgmental or neutral stance, making the reader feel safe and accepted.
Candid Tone Examples
- I know you’ve been feeling terrible lately, so how can I help you?
- I’m not even sure how that works. Are you?
23. Caustic Tone
A caustic tone is negative and bitter. It usually appears when the writer has an issue with something or someone. A caustic tone can be very sharp in its delivery — even if it hurts someone’s feelings.
Caustic Tone Examples
- I knew the day would come when you’d do something this stupid. Now I have to fire you.
- How dare you talk about my dog like that!
24. Celebratory Tone
A celebratory tone is typically used when somebody has accomplished something positive. Sometimes, it can refer to a generally positive situation or event.
Celebratory Tone Examples
- Happy holidays!
- We’ve made some remarkable accomplishments this past year. Here’s to more growth in the future!
25. Chatty Tone
A chatty tone is typically used when talking casually, a friendly. It’s more about the relationship between the two people than anything else.
Chatty Tone Examples
- Hey, how have you been?
- What are your thoughts on the new karaoke app you downloaded last week?
26. Colloquial Tone
A colloquial tone typically involves slang or informal language. It can be found in day-to-day conversation and it often has a casual, friendly connotation. A colloquial tone is common in children’s books.
Colloquial Tone Examples
- I’m totally gonna win!
- This sucks! I need to get out here.
27. Comic Tone
A comic voice is typically used in writing when the writer is trying to make somebody laugh or find humor in a situation. It helps the readers enjoy what they’re reading.
Comic Tone Examples
- I love you more than anything! Except for my shoes.
- This movie was so bad that we all died laughing!
28. Compassionate Tone
A compassionate tone is typically used when the writer feels deeply affected by someone else’s situation. Sentences with a compassionate tone of voice make their point clear but also leave the reader or listener space to think and respond.
Compassion Tone Examples
- I’m sorry you’re feeling down.
- It must be hard being away from your family during Thanksgiving.
29. Complex Tone
A complex tone is typically used when the writer wants to convey more than one message. This tone may include multiple meanings that aren’t always apparent, even after careful reading. It usually requires analyzing whole paragraphs to understand the idea.
Complex Tone Examples
- It was an interesting read for anyone who enjoys good references to quality literature, but I personally found that previous knowledge of the philosophy and ancient history mentioned throughout the novel was required.
- Norman had just left his car at home because he knew he would need his bike later. He was about to make an important trip that nobody else knew about.
30. Compliant Tone
A compliant tone is typically found in writing when someone is following recommendations or orders. The tone usually sounds respectful. Sentences with a compliant tone usually connote a relationship with authority and describe situations where explicit or implicit rules are followed.
Compliant Tone Examples
- I’ll make sure to bring my ID next time.
- We will stay off your property.
31. Concerned Tone
When people express concern, the tone usually conveys an air of empathy. This can be seen in writing as a low-key way to express emotions and thoughts about something worrying or troublesome.
Concerned Tone Examples
- I hope everything is okay over there.
- Were things not going well?
32. Conciliatory Tone
A conciliatory tone is typically used when the writer is trying to improve the state of a conflict by making somebody feel better. A conciliatory tone, while not always positive, considers that people have different opinions on a certain subject. The author tries their best to make sure that both parties’ voices are understood.
Conciliatory Tone Examples
- I shouldn’t have shouted at you last night. Let me explain what happened.
- I think that I was ultimately the cause of that disagreement.
33. Condescending Tone
A condescending tone is only used in writing when the writer has a superior position over the audience or as a joke. The tone can be snobbish or rude, but might be used to teach somebody something they might not know already, but should.
Condescending Tone Examples
- You have been playing this game for too long without any real knowledge about strategy. I will show you how it should really be played.
- This will be a difficult task for you to master, but I will help you buckle down and improve.
34. Confused Tone
A confused tone is typically used when the writer is unsure about something or having a hard time understanding. This may also be used to express distress about something, with no clear path forward.
Confused Tone Examples
- I’m really not sure how this works. Can you help me?
- What did he say about me?
35. Contemptuous Tone
A contemptuous tone is typically used when the writer is expressing their distaste, scorn, or dislike. When somebody uses this tone, they often want to belittle, ridicule, and humiliate the subject in question.
Contemptuous Tone Examples
- I don’t know why you think your opinion matters so much to me anyway!
- Did you even look at these papers? They’re terrible!
36. Critical Tone
A critical tone can be a way of offering feedback for improvement. Sentences with a critical tone may also be paired with positive or encouraging statements.
Critical Tone Examples
- You’re slipping with this project!
- You need to keep working just as hard as you have been until now.
37. Cruel Tone
A cruel tone conveys the hope that harm or violence comes upon somebody. It’s often utilized as a storytelling tool. A cruel tone often targets the audience’s emotions.
Cruel Tone Examples
- I hope you die in prison!
- You aren’t worth anything.
38. Curious Tone
A curious tone is typically used when expressing interest in something or someone that the writer hasn’t experienced before.
Curious Tone Examples
- What’s that animal?
- What should I know about Italy?
39. Cynical Tone
A cynical tone is a negative-sounding, skeptical approach. A cynical tone can come across with sarcasm or an air of superiority, possibly mocking others who are trying hard but seem unable to succeed.
Cynical Tone Examples
- We would never get any customers if we took that approach to our business today.
- People are so lazy.
40. Defensive Tone
A defensive tone is typically seen in writing when the writer feels threatened. A defensive tone can be used for any situation where fear of criticism or confrontation is present.
Defensive Tone Examples
- What do you mean by “not good enough”?
- You’re just jealous!
41. Defiant Tone
A defiant tone can be heard when a writer is trying to challenge or debate something. The tone itself may not show hostility toward an opponent. It more often comes from feeling frustrated with an idea that is being upheld by others without question.
Defiant Tone Examples
- I think the public is wrong on this one!
- I’m going to wear my hair like this whether you like it or not!
42. Demeaning Tone
A demeaning tone is typically used when the writer is trying to make somebody feel bad about a difficult experience. It might aim to manipulate the audience into doing something, whether complying with demands or changing their opinion.
Demeaning Tone Examples
- You’re such an idiot.
- That’s ridiculous!
43. Depressing Tone
A depressing tone is typically used when the writer needs to emphasize a negative point. A depressing tone conveys sadness or pain.
Depressing Tone Examples
- I cannot bear his absence anymore.
- His behavior was so cruel it broke my heart.
44. Derisive Tone
A derisive tone is typically used when the writer is trying to mock somebody about something they feel. A derisive tone may insult or dehumanize the subject but may also be used as comedy.
Derisive Tone Examples
- Did you get ditched by your boyfriend? How pathetic!
- The girl chose her over me on the team. Typical.
45. Detached Tone
A detached tone is used when the writer feels distant from a situation. The tone can be expressive or dry. Detached writing often takes on an impersonal voice.
Detached Tone Examples
- She had been crying for hours now and just couldn’t feel anything anymore.
- It’s time to go home now because my work here is complete. I have no idea how long this place will exist once I’m gone.
46. Dignified Tone
A dignified tone is typically used when the writer wants to convey importance, seriousness, or value. This type of writing style tends to have an air that radiates authority without sounding intimidating or demanding.
Dignified Tone Examples
- You’re needed on the team right now, more than ever before!
- I think my work has made some heads turn lately.
47. Disappointed Tone
A disappointed tone is typically used when something was not received as wanted. This tone reflects the writer’s disappointment over a missed opportunity.
Disappointing Tone Examples
- I’m sorry you couldn’t attend our meeting today. It would have been great if you could have come.
- When will my package arrive? It’s already four days late!
48. Disapproving Tone
A disapproving tone is typically used when the writer is trying to make somebody feel bad about something they are doing. This writing style tends to focus on correcting the audience’s behavior, actions, or decisions, even if this hurts their feelings.
Disapproving Tone Examples
- You had no right to leave your family like that!
- I am sorry you’re not happy with me, but this problem isn’t going anywhere on its own.
49. Disheartening Tone
A disheartening tone is typically used when something has gone wrong and the writer wants to convey a sense of sadness or despair. Disheartening writing often focuses on pointing out consequences rather than solutions.
Disheartening Tone Examples
- I hope you don’t get fired.
- The car was totaled in the accident.
50. Disparaging Tone
A disparaging tone can be used in a variety of circumstances, often when the writer is describing a scandal.
Disparaging Tone Examples
- We shouldn’t trust them anymore; why should we continue this conversation?
- What did they think would happen? That was obvious!
51. Dispassionate Tone
A dispassionate tone is typically used when the writer wants to keep their opinions neutral. This type of writing doesn’t take a side or express any personal feelings about something.
Dispassionate Tone Examples
- Let’s focus on the facts.
- I don’t know why you’re so angry.
52. Distressed Tone
A distressed tone in writing is often used when somebody or something has caused a problem. The writer uses a distressed tone to show the audience what has happened and how they feel about it.
Distressed Tone Examples
- I’m so ashamed of how this company made me feel about my body while marketing these products!
- My friend is always doing terrible things, like stealing money from others.
53. Docile Tone
A docile tone is used when a writer wants to express they aren’t angry. A docile tone often expresses this through humility and gentleness.
Docile Tone Examples
- I don’t really feel angry — I’m just tired today.
- You’re right about that.
54. Eager Tone
An eager tone is one of pleasure and delight. It typically appears when writing about something in the future that the writer finds very enjoyable or exciting.
Eager Tone Examples
- I cannot wait to see the movie It.
- We had so much fun together last night; we’ve got to do it again sometime soon!
55. Earnest Tone
An earnest tone is typically used when somebody is being honest or sincere about something. An earnest tone shows the writer takes the situation more seriously than they normally would when joking.
Earnest Tone Examples
- You must miss her very much right now.
- It’s an unfortunate situation, but I think it will be okay.
56. Egotistical Tone
An egotistical tone is used when somebody is showing off their accomplishments or talking about themselves in an inflated manner. The tone may be accompanied by bragging or elitism.
Egotistical Tone Examples
- It’s my company now.
- I’m great at math!
57. Empathetic Tone
An empathetic tone is typically used when the writer is expressing compassion for someone who has experienced some sort of hardship. In contrast with sympathy, empathy means understanding someone’s feelings, whether or not you share them. An empathetic tone describes writing that offers support to its audience by providing understanding without judgment or criticism.
Empathetic Tone Examples
- It’s hard to imagine how she felt during her darkest moment.
- I know you’re trying your best.
58. Encouraging Tone
An encouraging tone is typically used when the writer is trying to motivate somebody to tackle a challenge. An encouraging tone is about positivity, and it makes the audience feel good.
Encouraging Tone Examples
- I really believe you can do it!
- You’re doing great work here today.
59. Evasive Tone
An evasive tone is typically used when the writer doesn’t want to answer a question or disclose sensitive information.
Evasive Tone Examples
- I don’t know what you’re talking about.
- What was your name again?
60. Excited Tone
An excited tone is typically used when a writer conveys enthusiasm for something. The speaker often becomes more animated and enthusiastic with each sentence. This can create some humor within the content as well.
Excited Tone Examples
- I’m so happy you’re here!
- The game was really close, but we won at the last second!
61. Facetious Tone
A facetious tone is often used when the writer and audience are sharing a joke or laughing together. Another type of facetious writing includes sarcasm, which is usually delivered ironically through an exaggerated sense of seriousness.
Facetious Tone Examples
- How did you manage to get that easy project done in only a year?
- I’d prefer you say that behind my back!
62. Flippant Tone
A flippant tone is used to convey the writer’s sarcasm or humor. Flippant writing may be humorous, insulting, or playful in nature and almost always comes across as lighthearted and carefree.
Flippant Tone Examples
- I know how you feel! Let’s review this spreadsheet line-by-line.
- You must really love that flower if you named it after yourself. Real original!
63. Forceful Tone
A forceful tone is used when someone wants to get their point across or give an order. A forceful tone often has a negative connotation because it sounds very bossy and strong-willed.
Forceful Tone Examples
- You still have two hours left on your shift!
- You need to clean your room before you leave.
64. Formal Tone
A formal tone is typically used in writing when the writer has to be professional and respectful. A formal tone is often more polite than a commanding tone but can still come across as condescending or snobbish.
Formal Tone Examples
- They should have called for help earlier.
- It would be great if you could bring some drinks.
65. Frank Tone
A frank tone is typically used when a person does not care for the context of what’s going on. The writing sounds blunt and direct, sometimes rude, but its intention is helpful.
Frank Tone Examples
- You should rethink that!
- I don’t know why you were drinking so much last night, did something happen?
66. Frustrated Tone
A frustrated tone is typically used when the writer addresses something that has irked them. Frustrated writing usually expresses feelings of anger or annoyance.
Frustrated Tone Examples
- I don’t understand why she doesn’t want me to come over and see her house!
- Why can’t we just get one thing done without so much drama?
67. Funny Tone
A funny tone in writing is typically used to make somebody laugh. It’s usually a casual and lighthearted approach..
Funny Tone Examples
- I can’t believe you ate all those donuts without stopping to breathe!
- He laughed so hard his stomach hurt!
68. Gentle Tone
A gentle tone is used to communicate difficult information in a softer manner. The tone is never confrontational and may appear informal.
Gentle Tone Examples
- I’m sorry I caused you pain.
- It’s okay, we’re all still friends here.
69. Grim Tone
A grim tone is typically used when something bad has happened or a sad event is described. Sentences with a grim tone usually have an unhappy connotation and focus on how the writer feels.
Grim Tone Examples
- I hope she doesn’t stab me!
- That was a really unfortunate day.
70. Hard Tone
A hard tone is often used in writing when the author or speaker feels anger or wants to sound severe. A hard tone tends to be primitive and aggressive.
Hard Tone Examples
- He just broke the law!
- You just stole my money!
71. Humble Tone
A humble tone is typically used when a writer feels insecure or apologetic about themselves. With an honest, down-to-earth voice, humble writing can make readers feel close enough to relate to the subject matter.
Humble Tone Examples
- It really wasn’t that hard, and I had a lot of help.
- We honestly need your help right now!
72. Humorous Tone
A humorous tone is typically used when writing about something that isn’t serious. Humor can also provide comic relief from an otherwise stressful situation.
Humorous Tone Examples
- I stop by that restaurant every day. Even when they’re closed.
- My dog is always so dramatic!
73. Hypocritical Tone
If someone is hypocritical, they act in contradiction of their stated values. A hypocritical tone can be used as humor to mock one’s own shortcomings.
Hypocritical Tone Examples
- Don’t be late like me.
- I didn’t know any better. You should!
74. Impartial Tone
An impartial tone is typically used to describe something accurately, without revealing any personal preference.
Impartial Tone Examples
- The two teams came into the game evenly matched, and they both performed well today despite injuries and other obstacles brought about by playing so late at night.
- Please do your best to keep this discussion respectful. We want a productive debate on this issue.
75. Impassioned Tone
An impassioned tone is typically used when the writer is trying to make somebody feel the same strong feelings as them.
Impassioned Tone Examples
- I was madly in love with him.
- The tears were streaming down his cheeks as the regret surged for what he had done.
76. Imploring Tone
An imploring tone is typically used to convey sincerity or regret. This tone is generally earnest; it emphasizes the writer’s need for help, attention, or understanding.
Imploring Tone Examples
- Please help me out.
- I am so sorry.
77. Impressionable Tone
An impressionable tone is typically used when someone is moved by something. This type of writing may praise people, even if they aren’t successful yet.
Impressionable Tone Examples
- You’re really talented at drawing!
- Your project seems to be off to a great start!
78. Incensed Tone
An incensed tone is typically used in writing when somebody or something infuriates the writer. It can also be used to describe a situation that is emotionally disturbing.
Incensed Tone Examples
- How dare you insult me!
- You’re fired!
79. Incredulous Tone
An incredulous tone is used when somebody finds something to be highly unlikely. An incredulous tone can show frustration with the subject.
Incredulous Tone Examples
- I can’t understand why you feel that way because I never said anything like that.
- That’s impossible!
80. Indignant Tone
An indignant tone is typically used when somebody is angry or frustrated, and exposing someone’s wrongdoing. This tone of voice often has an aggressive undertone.
Indignant Tone Examples
- I’m really tired! How long are we going to do this?
- That place clearly sucks!
81. Intense Tone
An intense tone is typically used when the writer needs to express a strong opinion. The intensity provides clarity and forcefulness. A sentence written with this type of tone may discuss controversial or dangerous topics.
Intense Tone Examples
- I find it offensive how you always ask me out for drinks whenever we are together!
- It’s my right to decide what kind of relationship I want!
82. Intimate Tone
An intimate tone is typically reserved for personal conversations. This type of writing often has a friendly and informal feel. The tone can be used when the reader and writer are bonded with an element of trust or closeness.
Intimate Tone Examples
- I hope you’re doing well!
- Your mom was telling me all about what happened last night. Are you okay?
83. Ironic Tone
An ironic tone uses a combination of sarcasm and humor. An ironic tone is often used by people who are trying to make lighthearted jokes about serious topics. With an ironic tone, speakers often say the opposite of what they feel.
Ironic Tone Examples
- What a coincidence! My mom got me into this program too!
- This is great weather for a funeral.
84. Irreverent Tone
An irreverent tone is typically used when the writer is trying to lighten up a situation or deliver humor. Speakers using an irreverent tone often don’t take themselves too seriously.
Irreverent Tone Examples
- I don’t care what the experts say.
- Lighten up; it’s just your marriage.
85. Jaded Tone
A jaded tone is often used when the writer has lost hope in their work or life. A jaded tone doesn’t always have to be fully negative, but it does communicate a pessimistic opinion.
Jaded Tone Examples
- I can’t find any meaning in life anymore.
- If you’re looking for answers, I don’t think you’re going to find them.
86. Joyful Tone
A joyful tone is used when celebrating something. It would be appropriate when writing about celebrations or events that are fun to read about. A writer uses a joyous tone when they want to make their audience feel better by using positive language and imagery.
Joyful Tone Examples
- How wonderful!
- We’re having such a good time tonight!
87. Judgmental Tone
A judgmental tone is typically used when somebody makes a critical or harsh remark. A judgmental tone can be used when the author looks down on the subject matter.
Judgmental Tone Examples
- The professor is not good enough!
- You need more effort put into your work.
88. Laudatory Tone
A laudatory tone is characterized by praise, adoration, or appreciation. This type of writing often has a positive connotation and is usually written with an air of reverence or solemnity.
Laudatory Tone Examples
- You are truly dedicated.
- Your work inspires me.
89. Lighthearted Tone
A lighthearted tone is used when the writer does not take anything very seriously. Lighthearted writing is generally casual and usually uses humor to put the audience at ease.
Lighthearted Tone Examples
- I’d tell them they’re welcome to come back, but they’re not!
- It’s not a big deal. I know how you can fix this.
90. Loving Tone
A loving tone is typically used when people are talking to or about a close friend or family member. It can also be used in formal settings when the speaker expresses affection.
Loving Tone Examples
- I loved the time we spent together!
- Let’s hang out on Friday night — we always have so much fun!
91. Macabre Tone
A macabre tone is typically used when writing about death, violence, and other dark subjects. This tone can be found in horror texts. It instills a sense of fear and dread.
Macabre Tone Examples
- I’m scared for my life!
- Nobody survived.
92. Malicious Tone
A malicious tone is often used when people are trying to hurt someone emotionally. The tone in this type of writing is usually aggressive. A malicious tone might be found in gossip articles that seek to ruin someone’s reputation.
Malicious Tone Examples
- Don’t get upset if you’re not invited to my party!
- I always have good taste. You’re the worst.
93. Mean-Spirited Tone
A mean-spirited tone is typically used when the writer is expressing their anger towards somebody or something. Mean-spirited writing implies that the subject is not worth wasting words on.
Mean-Spirited Tone Examples
- I’m never buying from you again!
- I want nothing to do with you.
94. Mischievous Tone
A mischievous tone can be used when the speaker talks about something in a very reckless playful manner. It aims to exploit or mislead people, either seriously or as a joke.
Mischievous Tone Examples
- If you’re going to Australia, watch out for drop bears!
- I’m sorry you feel like we were trying to take advantage of you; we would never do that!
95. Mocking Tone
A mocking tone is typically used to ridicule or make fun of someone. The mockery comes across as sarcastic and might contain condescending remarks.
Mocking Tone Examples
- I was looking forward to your performance but you totally blew it!
- Why do I always have to lead you by the hand?
96. Mourning Tone
A mourning tone is something that often appears in writing when somebody feels regret or sadness after experiencing a loss. The tone can take different forms, from complimenting someone who has passed away to expressing profound sadness.
Mourning Tone Examples
- I’m sorry for your loss, she was a really great person.
- It’s too late; all I have now are the memories.
97. Naïve Tone
A naïve tone is typically used when a writer lacks a full understanding of something. This tone has a sense of innocence to it. But it might also have some hidden meanings behind it.
Naïve Tone Examples
- I can’t believe someone would steal from that store! There’s even a sign that says, “No shoplifting”!
- Doesn’t everyone study over spring break?
98. Narcissistic Tone
A narcissistic tone is often used in writing when the writer wants to emphasize their own importance and power. Narcissistic writing has a sense of entitlement and self-indulgence.
Narcissistic Tone Examples
- I’m so amazing!
- I should totally write a memoir.
99. Nasty Tone
A nasty tone is typically used when the writer wants to convey negative emotions like hate. This type of writing may cause the reader to feel discomfort.
Nasty Tone Examples
- You’re ugly!
- You did a terrible job on that presentation last week.
100. Negative Tone
A negative tone often appears in writing when someone is expressing a low opinion of something or somebody. The speaker’s voice might have a sense of frustration and defeat as if the subject isn’t worth their time.
Negative Tone Examples
- Success is impossible!
- You’ve done everything wrong again.
101. Nostalgic Tone
Nostalgic writing is typically used when the writer describes memories they feel sentimental about. A nostalgic tone can be seen as more of a thought or feeling than a concrete statement, but it still provides information about what was happening at the time in question.
Nostalgic Tone Examples
- The old days were so much better!
- When I think back on my high school years, I wish I was young again.
102. Objective Tone
An objective tone is used when explaining or describing an idea, place, or event. Objective writing avoids stating any personal feelings and simply provides facts with no bias. The audience can then form their own opinion.
Objective Tone Examples
- There are many different species within the animal kingdom.
- New York is 205 miles from here.
103. Obsequious Tone
An obsequious tone is typically used when a writer is trying to find the favor of somebody else. For some, this could feel too familiar and cause offense, while others may find it charming.
Obsequious Tone Examples
- I am so, so sorry that I offended you!
- I know you’re very generous. Please consider giving me the extra 5%.
104. Optimistic Tone
An optimistic tone is typically used when the writer is trying to make somebody feel better about something they are going through. Optimistic writing tries to make the audience feel good about themselves.
Optimistic Tone Examples
- It’s okay if you weren’t able to find your keys; we can start looking again tomorrow morning after breakfast!
- He’s probably interested. You should call him back.
105. Outraged Tone
An outraged tone is typically used when the speaker or writer wants to express their anger towards something. An outraged tone is generally negative about something external but also shows internal anger and frustration.
Outraged Tone Examples
- It’s unfair how people on my team get paid more than me!
- I’m so angry right now. I feel sickened by what she said about her cousin during dinner last night.
106. Outspoken Tone
An outspoken tone is typically used when somebody is talking about an emotional or controversial subject. Outspoken writing comes across as bluntly honest and straightforward without being disrespectful.
Outspoken Tone Examples
- No matter how long it’s been in place, this policy needs to change.
- What he said was very racist.
107. Patronizing Tone
A patronizing tone is typically used in writing when somebody is trying to show dominance or superiority. The tone often has an air of condescension and it shows a lack of respect for others.
Patronizing Tone Examples
- You’re not even worth my time!
- I see you’re struggling today. You need my help to get out of this mess.
108. Pensive Tone
A pensive tone describes a kind of introspective, thoughtful feeling. A pensive sentence usually has an air of uncertainty about it and often deals with something new or unfamiliar.
Pensive Tone Examples
- I’m starting to worry now; what if my grades start slipping?
- I’ve never felt this way before.
109. Persuasive Tone
A writer uses a persuasive tone when trying to convince somebody else to see things from a particular point of view. A persuasive tone uses reasoning and evidence-based arguments or emotional appeals to try and change the reader’s perspective.
Persuasive Tone Examples
- Let’s go eat lunch. I’m sure you’ll like the restaurant.
- It’s getting dark, so we should start heading home now.
110. Pessimistic Tone
A pessimistic tone can appear in writing when somebody is feeling hopeless or devastated about something. This tone usually takes the form of a narrative that reflects on how much worse things may get.
Pessimistic Tone Examples
- They’re never going to approve your plan without you changing your approach!
- I’m so fed up. I didn’t think things could get this bad.
111. Philosophical Tone
A philosophical tone is often used in writing that focuses on an abstract topic or idea. A philosophical tone typically shows the writer is analyzing something, by questioning everything within a particular framework.
Philosophical Tone Examples
- What if we decide not to do anything?
- I wonder why my life is this way.
112. Playful Tone
A playful tone has an air of innocence and can sometimes be seen as frivolous or not serious, but it doesn’t lack creativity. The playful tone makes light of situations; it gives off a sense that everything will work out in time.
Playful Tone Examples
- I never thought my teacher would have so much trouble understanding my writing!
- This is quite a conundrum!
113. Pragmatic Tone
A pragmatic tone is typically used when information has to be delivered in a short amount of time. The speaker focuses on practical solutions and results.
Pragmatic Tone Examples
- Although it might be difficult, you need to tell the truth to fix this.
- Did that work out the way we wanted?
114. Pretentious Tone
A pretentious tone is typically used when the writer feels they have something to teach. This type of writing can be condescending and arrogant because it assumes a certain lack of knowledge on the part of the audience.
Pretentious Tone Examples
- To get ahead, you need to learn how to be the best.
- This theory is probably beyond your understanding.
115. Regretful Tone
A regretful tone is typically used when people express heartbreak, disappointment, or remorse. Sentences with a regretful tone usually have a negative connotation.
Regretful Tone Examples
- I feel sorry for what happened to you during your first day at school today.
- I should have helped you this morning instead of pushing you so hard.
116. Resentful Tone
A resentful tone often appears in writing when someone feels betrayed or upset by something that happened to them. A resentful tone is typically aggressive and hostile, and it implies a lack of trust in the relationship between the writer and the subject matter.
Resentful Tone Examples
- I don’t think you’re being honest about this project!
- It’s your fault we lost our jobs.
117. Resigned Tone
A resigned tone is typically used when the writer feels hopeless about a situation. Resigned writing usually comes across as pessimistic or numb, which might create an uncomfortable feeling for the reader if it’s too long-winded.
Resigned Tone Examples
- I know you didn’t mean that; I’m just sick of trying to make this work.
- This situation will never get any better.
118. Restrained Tone
A restrained tone is typically used when the writer holds something back, such as information or emotions. A restrained tone often implies a sense of mystery and confidentiality, as well as calm. This can show many different shades of meaning depending on the situation.
Restrained Tone Examples
- I don’t have any opinion of my boss.
- I’m not supposed to reveal much, so don’t tell anybody about this.
119. Reverent Tone
A reverent tone is typically used when people are writing about things they look up to or respect. This is particularly associated with religion. A reverent tone can be seen in texts that express wonder for the subject.
Reverent Tone Examples
- How I wish there were more saints like you.
- We all need God’s love.
120. Ridiculous Tone
A ridiculous tone can be described as being very far-fetched or inane. The writer knows the audience won’t believe them, but still tries to convince them anyway.
Ridiculous Tone Examples
- This report says there’s a new type of fish called Dorito Fish.
- And that’s why I couldn’t finish my homework.
121. Righteous Tone
A righteous tone is commonly used in writing when the writer is defending their belief system, such as upholding a particular cause. A righteous tone showcases the writers’ virtuousness, as having moral authority over the audience.
Righteous Tone Examples
- I’ll show you the proper way to act.
- You’re making things worse by doing this.
122. Sarcastic Tone
Sarcastic writing is often used as a form of humor. It can be insulting or witty depending on the tone and style of the writer. Sarcasm is not as common in written form, because the words’ inflection matters.
Sarcastic Tone Examples
- I am so upset that my perfect life has been ruined by this homework assignment!
- Oh yes, everyone loves you here.
123. Satirical Tone
A satirical tone is typically used to poke fun at or criticize something or someone, particularly a public figure. In contrast to a sarcastic tone, a satirical tone is less aggressive.
Satirical Tone Examples
- Although the program was a complete failure, I’m sure we can all agree this money was well spent.
- We might be able to find a better leader. Anyone, really.
124. Scathing Tone
A scathing tone is used when the writer feels a strong need to make a negative argument or express their frustrations with something. This type of writing usually has a lot of hostility.
Scathing Tone Examples
- The article seems very biased. I’m going to have to disagree with that opinion!
- That was unsafe. You’re lucky you didn’t get your car totaled!
125. Scornful Tone
A scornful tone is typically used when the writer is trying to show they dislike somebody. A scornful tone looks down on, criticizes, or belittles the subject. The writer might resort to name-calling or questioning people’s motives.
Scornful Tone Examples
- That was careless!
- You thought that was an okay thing to do? Really?
126. Sensationalistic Tone
A sensationalistic tone is used in writing to create a sense of excitement. The tone usually comes across as dramatic, with words that are meant to make an emotional impact on the audience. It can come off as propaganda, not as an informative piece.
Sensationalistic Tone Examples
- Is he really dead?
- You won’t believe what happens next!
127. Sentimental Tone
A sentimental tone is typically used when the writer wants to share memories or feelings about something special or personal. Sentimental writing often focuses more on feelings and emotions than it does on facts and ideas.
Sentimental Tone Examples
- It was hard for me to say goodbye, but I am really happy about what you’re planning to do next!
- Marrying my high school sweetheart felt like a dream come true.
128. Sincere Tone
A sincere tone is typically used when the writer is trying to convey a sense of truth, authenticity, or honesty. Sincere sentences lack pretense and rhetorical flourishes.
Sincere Tone Examples
- It was freezing out there today! You must be cold.
- I’m sorry for being so nasty yesterday at work. I was having a very stressful day.
129. Skeptical Tone
A skeptical tone can be used in writing when the writer is expressing doubt about something. It often appears in a formal setting, with a great emphasis on accuracy. This tone is also often common in investigative journalism.
Skeptical Tone Examples
- The results reported by this study are unreliable because they were not peer-reviewed prior to publication.
- This product has ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer and other diseases if ingested over time.
130. Solemn Tone
A solemn tone is typically used when the writer has a very serious topic to discuss. It’s often used in writing about death or other negative topics that call for sympathy from readers.
Solemn Tone Examples
- Emma passed away yesterday at 2 pm after battling cancer for three years.
- On what could have been his last day alive, he made a courageous decision.
131. Subjective Tone
A subjective tone is a type of writing that primarily uses feelings to convey meaning. It’s often used when someone is very emotional about something, whether this concerns positive or negative emotions.
Subjective Tone Examples
- I think this party was terrible!
- I feel like everybody will be interested in this book.
132. Submissive Tone
A submissive tone is typically used when someone is following orders or trying to show agreement. A submissive tone usually expresses that someone wants approval.
Submissive Tone Examples
- I’ll do it your way.
- I’ve followed your instructions in the letter.
133. Sulking Tone
A sulking tone is typically used when somebody is feeling upset, frustrated, or even moderately angry about something. A sentence with this tone usually reflects feelings of loneliness and sorrow, and the speaker may blame others for the situation.
Sulking Tone Examples
- I don’t know why you did what you did.
- That was so inconsiderate.
134. Surprised Tone
A surprised tone is used when the writer wants to express awe or amazement. Typically, a surprised tone has an emotional impact on its audience because it tries to capture a larger-than-life feeling.
Surprised Tone Examples
- I can’t believe this happened!
- The fireworks tonight were mind-blowing!
135. Sympathetic Tone
A sympathetic tone is usually used when the writer wants to show they feel the pain of somebody who is going through a difficult time. In contrast with empathy, sympathy means sharing the same feelings as someone else.
Sympathetic Tone Examples
- You must be so disappointed after waiting all year for your team to make the playoffs, only to fall short.
- I feel sorry for you right now.
136. Tolerant Tone
A tolerant tone is typically used in writing when the writer wants to show compassion for someone who has done something wrong or has different views. Tolerance doesn’t mean adopting someone else’s views but rather being patient in considering people’s differences instead of reacting negatively.
Tolerant Tone Examples
- I’m not sure I agree with what you said to your sister. Can you tell me more about what happened?
- Let your kids know that you love them no matter what!
137. Tragic Tone
A tragic tone is typically sad and heartfelt, often describing a dark or depressing situation. A tragic tone can be used to show the feelings of someone who has experienced a loss. A tragic tone explores how people feel.
Tragic Tone Examples
- I remember the horror of the night when all this happened.
- She’s been struggling since her parents passed away last year.
138. Unassuming Tone
An unassuming tone typically shows the writer feels humble or conscious of their lack of knowledge. An unassuming tone can be used to express thoughts on a topic without claiming expertise.
Unassuming Tone Examples
- I feel pretty insecure about myself these days, and I’m not sure how I should go forward.
- You seem to know what you’re doing. Can you show me?
139. Uneasy Tone
An uncomfortable tone is typically used when the writer feels unsure about something or is hesitant to write about a topic. They might have conflicting thoughts or they might think the topic is unpleasant.
Uneasy Tone Examples
- This was not a fun article to write.
- I’m not comfortable sharing this information and would like to keep it confidential for the time being.
140. Urgent Tone
An urgent tone is typically used when the writer has a sense that something needs to be done quickly. The urgency can come from both external and internal sources.
Urgent Tone Examples
- Please read this article as soon as possible! You need to decide whether we should proceed with tomorrow night’s show at your venue.
- To win this race, I need you all to do one more push now.
141. Vindictive Tone
A vindictive tone often appears in writing when the writer is expressing anger, hatred, or resentment for something and wants to take revenge.
Vindictive Tone Examples
- I cannot believe you did this!
- That’s it! I’m going to tell everyone why he dumped me in high school!
142. Virtuous Tone
A virtuous tone is used in writing when someone is trying to recommend an action or make a moral statement. It displays confidence and enthusiasm, and it promotes good values.
Virtuous Tone Examples
- You should look into getting some financial advice.
- That was a very warm gesture. Thank you.
143. Weary Tone
A weary tone is typically used when a person has been through a lot, either emotionally or physically. This tone shows that the speaker is tired and feels beaten down, and it can sound very pessimistic.
Weary Tone Examples
- I’ve had enough. Let’s head home for good.
- I’m in a lot of trouble. There’s no easy solution.
144. Whimsical Tone
A whimsical tone is often used in creative writing, such as poetry or fiction. This type of voice can be playful and fun-spirited while also being candid. It makes the reader have fun in the experience.
Whimsical Tone Examples
- That was a bizarre experience, and I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.
- As I went out into my backyard just now, I saw a weird frog. It looked like your aunt!
145. Worried Tone
A worried tone is typically used when somebody is feeling anxious, insecure, or frustrated about something. A worried tone would also characterize someone who does not understand why they are experiencing certain feelings of anxiety or insecurity.
Worried Tone Examples
- Let’s stay home tonight. There’s too much unrest in this city.
- I’m so embarrassed. What will people think?
146. Wretched Tone
A wretched tone is typically used to describe something that has caused great suffering to the writer or subject. Sentences in a wretched tone are always negative, with most of them expressing anger, pain, and resentment.
Wretched Tone Examples
- I’m so frustrated by how my parents raised me.
- She wasn’t welcome back home after being away for over six months. It would take much longer to heal.
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What is tone? Here’s a quick and simple definition:
The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on. For instance, an editorial in a newspaper that described its subject as "not even having the guts to do the job himself," has a tone that is both informal and critical.
Some additional key details about tone:
- All pieces of writing, even letters and official documents, have a tone. A neutral, official tone is still a tone.
- The tone of a piece of writing may change over the course of a text to produce different effects.
- Tone and mood are not the same. Tone has to do with the attitude of the author or the person speaking, whereas mood is how the work makes the reader feel.
- The author's intentions, emotions, and personal ideas about the theme or subject matter often reveal themselves in the piece's tone.
How to Pronounce Tone
Here's how to pronounce tone: tohn
It is always possible to describe the way that a writer uses language. Therefore, every piece of writing has a tone. Even when a writer's aim is to use completely neutral language—as is often the case in scientific papers or investigative journalism—the language still sounds a certain way, whether it's "scientific," "journalistic," "formal," "professional," or even "mechanical." The way a writer makes use of tone can tell you a lot about the writer's attitude or relationship toward their subject matter and what they are trying to say about it, as well as the effect they are trying to create for their reader.
Here's just a partial list of words that are commonly used to talk about tone, with examples of the types of writing they might be used to describe:
- A particularly stirring campaign speech
- The Declaration of Independence
- Maya Angelou's famous poem, "Still I Rise"
- A sappy love poem
- An over-the-top television sermon
- A wordy letter of apology
- A know-it-all at a cocktail party
- The comments section of almost any YouTube video
- A speech made by a boastful or proud character
- A speech at a funeral
- A murder mystery
- A novel about someone's struggles with depression
- An article in the newspaper The Onion
- A work of parody like Don Quixote
- A satire , like many skits on SNL
- A stand-up comedy routine
- A play like Shakespeare's As You Like It
- A TV show like Seinfeld or Friends
- A Dr. Seuss Book
- A wedding speech
- A friendly joke
- An essay you'd write for school
- A dense work of political theory
- An article analyzing a political event
- A letter from the IRS
- A scientific paper
- Instructions on how to assemble furniture
The tone of a piece of writing depends on a confluence of different factors, including:
- The connotation of the words used: Are they positive or negative? What associations do the words bring to mind?
- The diction , or word choice: Are there lots of thou's and thine's? Does the writer use slang? Are the words long and technical, or short and childish?
- The use of figurative language : Is there a lot of metaphor, hyperbole, or alliteration? Does the language sound lofty and poetic?
- The mood : How does the language make you feel as the reader? This can reveal a lot about the tone of the piece.
All of these things work together to determine the tone of a piece of writing.
The Difference Between Tone and Mood
The words "tone" and " mood " are often used interchangeably, but the two terms actually have different meanings.
- Tone is the attitude or general character of a piece of writing and is often related to the attitude of the writer or speaker.
- Mood refers specifically to the effect a piece of writing has on the reader . Mood is how a piece of writing makes you feel.
While tone and mood are distinct literary devices, they are often closely related. For example, it wouldn't be unusual for a poem with a somber tone to also have a somber mood—i.e., to make the reader feel somber as well. And as we explained above, a journalist who makes a jab at a politician might be conveying how they feel about their subject (using a critical tone) while also trying to influence their readers to feel similarly—i.e., to create a mood of anger or outrage.
Since every text has a tone, there are essentially endless examples of tone. The examples below illustrate different types of tone.
Tone in U.A. Fanthorpe's "Not my Best Side"
The poem "Not my Best Side" by U.A. Fanthorpe has a lighthearted and ironic tone. The poem concerns the painting Saint George and the Dragon by Paolo Uccello, and pokes fun at the way the various characters are portrayed in the painting—the dragon, the maiden, and the knight who is supposedly rescuing her. Fanthorpe creates a contrast between her modern, colloquial way of speaking and the medieval subject matter of her poem. Using colloquial words like "sexy" and phrases like "if you know what I mean," Fanthorpe creates a lighthearted, conversational tone. But this conversational tone also has the effect of imbuing the poem with a tone of irony because it is used to describe the unlikely scenario of a maiden falling in love with a dragon.
It's hard for a girl to be sure if She wants to be rescued. I mean, I quite Took to the dragon. It's nice to be Liked, if you know what I mean. He was So nicely physical, with his claws And lovely green skin, and that sexy tail
Tone in Milton's "Lycidas"
The poem "Lycidas" by John Milton has a mournful tone. The poem was inspired by the untimely death of Milton's friend, who drowned. To express his grief, and set the sorrowful and mournful tone, Milton uses words and phrases with negative connotations , like, "watery bier" (or "tomb"), "parching wind" and "melodious tear."
For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime, Young lycidas, and hath not left his peer. Who would not sing for Lycidas? he knew Himself to sing, and build the lofty rhyme He must not float upon his watery bier Unwept, and welter to the parching wind, Without the meed of some melodious tear.
Tone in Flaubert's Madame Bovary
In many passages in Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary , Flaubert's own cynicism about romance shines through the third-person narration to imbue the work with a tone of cynicism. Bored by her husband and desperate for a passionate love affair like the sort she reads about in romance novels, Emma Bovary gets involved with a notorious womanizer. Flaubert highlights Emma's foolishness for falling for such an obvious hack, who sees her as no different from any other mistress:
Emma was just like any other mistress; and the charm of novelty, falling down slowly like a dress, exposed only the eternal monotony of passion, always the same forms and the same language. He did not distinguish, this man of such great expertise, the differences of sentiment beneath the sameness of their expression.
Flaubert sets the cynical tone in part by describing, using figurative language , how the charm of novelty, for Madame Bovary's lover, fell down "slowly like a dress," suggesting that what she experiences as romance, her lover experiences only as an extended prelude to sex.
What's the Function of Tone in Literature?
First and foremost, tone clues readers into the essence and the purpose of what they're reading. It wouldn't make sense to use a wordy, poetic tone to write a simple set of directions, just like it wouldn't make sense to use a dry, unfeeling tone when writing a love poem. Rather, writers set the tone of their work to match not only the content of their writing, but also to suit the purpose they intend for it to serve, whether that is to convey information clearly, to make people laugh, to lavish praises on someone, or something else. Additionally, tone can serve the following purposes:
- For example, a biography of Bill Clinton might have a critical tone if the author has critical views of the former president and what he stood for, or it might have an admiring tone if the author was a staunch Clinton supporter.
- If a writer wants their readers to feel upset, he or she might use words with certain connotations to create a gloomy tone.
- Likewise, if a writer wants to create an informal tone, he or she might make use of colloquialisms , slang terms, and everyday language to make the reader feel like their familiar or their equal.
Simply put, establishing the tone of a work is important because it helps writers show readers what the work is trying to accomplish, and what attitude the work takes toward its own subject matter.
Other Helpful Tone Resources
- Wikipedia Page on Tone in Literature : A helpful overview of tone and its usage.
- A Definition of Tone : A definition of tone that includes a short overview of the difference between tone and mood.
- List of Poetic Tones : A handy chart listing a slew of tones commonly found in poetry, and all other types of literature.
- PDFs for all 136 Lit Terms we cover
- Downloads of 1774 LitCharts Lit Guides
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Tone in Writing: Its Types and Techniques of Using It Effectively
EssayEdge > Blog > Tone in Writing: Its Types and Techniques of Using It Effectively
Tone is broadly described as the author’s attitude toward his or her subject. It can be passionate, distant, angry, and lighthearted, among many other possibilities. Unfortunately there are too many possibilities for us to cover, and without knowing your subject, we cannot give the most specific advice possible. The obvious pitfalls include sounding condescending or frivolous, while sounding energetic and enthusiastic is a definite positive.
Although we cannot be more detailed about these specific approaches, there are still important general lessons to convey. In this section we will teach you how to strike a balance between sounding too casual and too formal. Then we will discuss ways to achieve the confident, energetic tone for which all writers should strive.
Table of Contents:
The danger in writing too casually is that you might come across as someone who does not take the application process seriously enough. When we say that you should be conversational, you should think in terms of an interview conversation. In other words, the situation is serious, but your words sound natural and not overwrought. Writing that is too informal would be the language you use when chatting with friends.
Some examples include the use of colloquialisms, sentence fragments, or slang. The following should illustrate a clear problem:
“The way I look at it, someone needs to start doing something about disease. What’s the big deal? People are dying. But the average person doesn’t think twice about it until it affects them. Or someone they know.”
Too Formal / Detached
More people err on the side of being too formal, because they take the quality of being professional to an extreme. They forget that this is a personal and not an academic essay. For example, some people even try to write about themselves without using the first person, because they were taught in high school English that “I” is anathema.
Generally the problem of sounding too formal goes along with detaching oneself from one’s subject. Some writers will try to write too objectively or as though they were trying to provide logical evidence for a thesis. Consider this before-and-after example:
Before: There was a delay in the start of the project, attributable to circumstances beyond the control of all relevant parties. Progress came to a standstill, and no one was prepared to undertake the assessment of the problem and determination of the solution. An unexpected shift in roles placed this duty on myself.
After: The project got off to a late start due to circumstances beyond our control. We could not move forward, and no one stepped forward to take the lead in figuring out what went wrong. Despite my junior status, I decided to undertake this challenge.
The second version clearly sounds more natural, and the uses of “our,” “we,” and “I” make the reader sense that the writer has a more personal stake in the problem. There are several differences worth noting.
- The second version is shorter. Writing in excessively formal language often requires more words, such as “beyond the control of all relevant parties” vs. “beyond our control.”
- The second version avoids two to be verbs and replaces them with more active ones.
- The first version turns words that are usually verbs into nouns: “determination” and “assessment.” This adds a definite stiffness to the writing.
- The second version uses phrases that sound conversational but not informal: “got off to a late start” and “figuring out what went wrong.” The line is fuzzy, but again, ask yourself if you would use these phrases in an interview. The answer here should be yes, while “What’s the big deal?” is a clear mistake.
- Another example of the first version depersonalizing the issue is in the last sentence, which is ambiguous. The new version does not rely on the vague phrase “an unexpected shift in roles” and has the further benefit of making the writer sound more active in assuming leadership.
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Within this category, we will also cover how to sound enthusiastic, positive, and passionate—in other words, the basic qualities every essay should have regardless of its subject. We will go through some general guidelines and offer before-and-after examples when appropriate:
- Avoid phrases such as “I believe,” “I feel,” and “I think.” Even worse are phrases that add an adverb, such as “I strongly believe.” Your tone will be much more confident if you just make the statement without preface.
Before: Our business has struggled since the whole market started its downturn, but we are staying strong.
After: Despite a slowdown that has coincided with the market struggles, we have taken measures to remain competitive and are beginning to reverse the downturn.
Before: Civil rights is an issue I feel strongly about. The legal field is closely related to this issue, and I would like to use it as an avenue to effect change.
After: I have marched, demonstrated, and campaigned for the civil rights of all people. Now I hope to tackle the systemic roots of the problem through a career in law.
Before: I was not sure what job to take next, but a great opportunity in health care administration came up.
After: I explored a wide range of career possibilities and discovered an opportunity in health care administration that intrigued me most.
A Note on Humor
Being funny in writing is very difficult, because the voice and exact context depend on the reader and are in a sense beyond the writer’s control. You could be a very funny person and nevertheless be unable to show that side of you in writing. If you see potential for using humor, you should aim small. Do not expect big laughs by being outrageous. Instead, aim to bring a smile to the reader’s face by including a clever witticism.
Be careful that your tone does not come across as flippant or overly sarcastic. Slight irony is good, and self-deprecating humor can be effective, because it shows that you do not take yourself too seriously.
- Being Too Formal in Your College Essay
- Being Too Casual in Your College Essay
Content, structure, and other aspects are definitely important, but what about tone? Any paper written in the wrong manner won’t be highly assessed by its readers. It’s especially important in the context of admission essay writing. Don’t be too self-confident: send your paper to our essay checking service before submitting it to college. We’ll proofread it to increase your chances of being enrolled.
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The Ultimate List Of Tone Words
As a writer , you know how important it is to choose the right word for the meaning you’re trying to convey.
And part of that is knowing what tone words are and which one to use in a particular context.
The wrong one is like an errant note in an otherwise flawless performance. Even if it has the same dictionary definition, it just doesn’t sound right.
But where do you go to find the words with just the right tone and cadence to make the sentence flow as it should?
Welcome to our ultimate list of tone words .
175 Words to Describe Tone for Authors
Positive tone words, negative tone words, neutral tone words, did you find the tone words you were seeking.
Any tone words list (worth the time it takes to make it) should provide the fuller meaning of each word — i.e., not just the denotation (dictionary definition) but it’s connotations, too.
For this tone words list, you’ll see each word explained with a short definition or with synonyms that have the same general tone.
All you have to do is open a thesaurus to find synonyms for a particular word to realize that some of those words do NOT have the tone you’re looking for. Some are obviously negative. Some are positive. And the rest are more or less neutral.
The tone word you need for the moment is the one that evokes the right emotions and that allows your sentence to flow without speed bumps.
Positive tone words are those that evoke positive emotions.
If you hear a person described in words with a positive tone, you’re more likely to think favorably of them, even before you’ve met.
- Adoring — loving ardently; worshipping; venerating
- Amused — entertained or diverted; pleased
- Animated — lively; full of excitement or enthusiasm; vibrant; spirited; impassioned
- Appreciative — grateful or thankful; showing gratitude, approval, or pleasure
- Assertive — sure of oneself; brave or fearless; self-confident; authoritative
- Ardent — passionate; enthusiastic; fervent; zealous
- Benevolent — kind; generous; compassionate; tolerant; well meaning
- Blithe — in good spirits; of a sunny disposition; happy; cheerful
- Bold — audacious or daring; assertive; fearless or seeming to be fearless
- Calm — serene or tranquil; unruffled or unshaken; placid
- Candid — honest or truthful; straightforward; unreserved
- Celebratory — paying tribute to; glorifying; praising or honoring; making merry
- Cheerful / cheery — positive or uplifting; optimistic; salutary;
- Comforting — consoling; healing; warming or calming; soothing
- Comic — funny/humorous; amusing or entertaining; diverting
- Compassionate — empathetic or sympathetic; nonjudgmental; quick to forgive
- Contented — wanting for nothing; grateful; accepting
- Curious — inquisitive or questioning; wanting to know more
- Direct — straightforward; blunt; lacking in hesitation
- Earnest — serious; wholehearted; sincere or showing deep sincerity or feeling
- Ebullient — high-spirited; brimming with enthusiasm or excitement; exuberant
- Elated — joyful or jubilant; in high spirits; happy or proud
- Elevated — exalted; lofty; honored
- Eloquent — beauty or fluidity of expression;
- Empathetic — showing empathy; feeling the emotions of others
- Enchant — cast a spell over; entrance; bewitch
- Endearing — inspiring warmth or affection
- Enthusiastic — excited; energetic; optimistic; bubbling over
- Exhilarated — invigorated; enlivened or feeling alive; stimulated; made cheerful
- Forthright — straight to the point; frank; outspoken; unambiguous; direct
- Gentle — kind; considerate; tender; soft; not severe; gradual; moderate
- Hilarious — amusing; uproariously funny; ridiculous or laughable
- Inspirational — motivating ; energizing; reassuring; instilling hope; catalyzing
- Intimate — familiar; confidential; confessional; private
- Joyful — filled with gratitude; elated or exuberant; supremely happy
- Laudatory — praising; extolling; recommending
- Learned — educated; knowledgeable; erudite; involved in the pursuit of knowledge
- Lighthearted — positive; carefree; relaxed; optimistic; in good spirits
- Lively — full of life; energetic; vigorous; animated; spirited; sprightly; vivacious
- Lofty — exalted in rank; elevated in tone, style, or sentiment
- Loving — affectionate; showing deep concern or solicitude for someone
- Modest — free from ostentation; unpretentious; showing humility
- Objective — without prejudice; fair; basing judgment on facts rather than feelings
- Optimistic — hopeful; cheerful; expecting good; disposed to taking a favorable view
- Powerful — potent; efficacious; having or exerting great power; forceful
- Reassuring — restoring hope, security, or confidence
- Reflective — given to reflection , meditation, or contemplation; thoughtful
- Relaxed — calm; free or relieved of tension, trouble, or anxiety
- Respectful — full of or showing politeness, sympathy, or deference
- Reverent — showing deep respect; holding someone or something in high esteem
- Righteous — morally right or justifiable; pious; guiltless; upright
- Romantic — imbued with idealism; preoccupied with love, adventure, justice, etc.
- Sanguine — hopeful; cheerfully optimistic; confident of a good outcome
- Scholarly — learned; educated; committed to furthering one’s education
- Self-assured — having or showing self-confidence; bold or fearless; forward
- Sincere — honest; truthful; not false or deceitful; free of hypocrisy; genuine
- Stable — not likely to fall or give way (as a structure/support); steady
- Stately — grand; imposing in size or magnificence; elegant; majestic
- Straightforward — honest; straight to the point; not roundabout; direct
- Sympathetic — understand what another is feeling; showing compassion
- Tender — gentle; soft-hearted; compassionate; kind; delicate; young
- Thoughtful — considerate of others; thinking before acting; pensive
- Tolerant — open-minded; patient; charitable; sympathetic; lenient; accepting
- Tranquil — calm; unruffled; unprovoked; peaceful; placid; serene
- Vibrant — full of life and vigor; lively; full of vivid color; vivacious
- Whimsical — playful or fun; offbeat; mischievous; quaint; capricious; fanciful
- Witty — quick-witted; entertaining; amusingly clever; intelligent
- Wonder — admiration; fascination; awe; curiosity; amazement; admiration
Anything described in negative tone words is likely to leave you with a bad impression, whether the thing described is a place, a book, or a group of people.
Choose your words carefully. If this is a time for honest negativity, this list will help you find the right words .
- Abashed — embarrassed or ashamed; humiliated; shy
- Abhorring — hating; despising; loathing; abominating; detesting
- Abstruse — difficult to understand; esoteric; secret or hidden; obsolete
- Absurd — laughable, ludicrous, ridiculous; senseless; illogical; untrue
- Accusatory — suggesting someone (else) has done something wrong
- Acerbic — biting, abrasive, cutting, or sharp; hurtful; severe
- Aggressive — hostile, forceful, argumentative, contentious
- Angry — irate or furious; menacing or threatening; resentful
- Annoyed — irritated; agitated; provoked; disturbed; bothered
- Antagonistic — argumentative or contentious; contrarian; belligerent
- Anxious — focused on negative thought loops; feeling out of control
- Apathetic — indifferent or lacking concern; unemotional; showing little interest
- Apprehensive — worried or nervous; expecting the worst
- Arrogant — conceited or self-important; overbearing; condescending
- Authoritarian — domineering or bossy; insisting on complete obedience
- Belligerent — bellicose or warlike; antagonistic; combative
- Bewildered — baffled, confused, or flummoxed; lost
- Bitter — angry; acrimonious; resentful or dwelling on past injury
- Boorish — dull; pretentious; arrogant or self-absorbed
- Brusque — abrupt or dismissive; rough; blunt
- Callous — uncaring or unfeeling; indifferent; lacking in compassion
- Caustic — making cutting or corrosive comments; intending injury
- Censorious — critical or quick to judge or condemn;
- Choleric — quick to anger; short-tempered; hot-blooded; irascible
- Churlish — critical in a mean-spirited way; nasty; belligerent; bullying
- Cliché — overused; trite; stale; unimaginative; hackneyed; commonplace
- Clinical — humorless; detached; unfeeling or uncaring; aloof; cold
- Complicated — unnecessarily complex; difficult to comprehend
- Condescending — patronizing; talking down to those you consider beneath you
- Confounded — confused; befuddled or mystified; bewildered; damned
- Confused — bewildered; unable to think clearly; vague; perplexed; disoriented
- Contemptuous — hateful; spiteful; quick to hold others in contempt; toxic
- Contentious — argumentative or combative; quick to stir the pot
- Critical — finding fault; complaining or criticizing; disapproving
- Cruel — causing pain or suffering; unkind; spiteful; devoid of humane feelings
- Cynical — critical of motives; quick to assume the worst; mocking or sneering
- Derisive — mocking; sarcastic; dismissive or scornful; snide
- Derogatory — insulting or demeaning; disrespectul; unkind
- Detached — aloof or distant; uncaring; unfeeling; frigid; machine-like
- Diabolic — demonic or satanic; evil or malicious;
- Diffident — lacking confidence in your ability or worth; timid or shy
- Disgusted — appalled; repulsed; repelled; disappointed
- Disparaging — critical; scornful; dismissive; insulting
- Distressing — saddening or heartbreaking; troubling; disturbing
- Dogmatic — thinking in black and white; intolerant; inflexible; close-minded
- Domineering — imposing your beliefs and/or authority on others; tyrannical
- Dubious — questionable or having questionable motives; inclined to doubt
- Egotistical — ego-centric; self-centered or self-absorbed; vain; arrogant
- Enraged — furious; unhinged; infuriated; extremely angry
- Evasive — cryptic or unclear; avoiding; ambiguous; elusive or evanescent
- Facetious — inappropriate or impertinent; flippant or dismissive; glib; shallow
- Farcical — ridiculous; absurd; mocking; humorous and highly improbable
- Fatalistic — pessimistic; expecting the worst as inevitable
- Fearful — frightened; afraid; terrified; paralyzed or immobilized; shy
- Flippant — casual or thoughtless; glib; inconsiderate; dismissive
- Foppish — dandified; pretentious; vain; excessively refined and fastidious
- Foreboding — dread; strong feeling of impending doom or evil
- Frivolous — unnecessary and costing more than it’s worth; silly or lacking
- Frustrated — feeling thwarted in your efforts; feeling besieged or undermined
- Ghoulish — delighting in the loathesome, perverse, or revolting
- Grim — serious or humorless; of dark intent; macabre; depressing
- Hapless — unfortunate or appearing to be doomed to perpetual bad luck
- Harsh — unkind or unmerciful; unnecessarily painful; unyielding
- Humble — modest; deferential; self-confident; unassuming; respectful
- Inane — foolish; stupid; silly or nonsensical; vacuous; empty; insignificant
- Incredulous — disbelieving; unconvinced; suspicious; questioning; skeptical
- Malicious — having ill intent; mean-spirited; spiteful; vindictive
- Naïve — unsuspecting; gullible or easy to deceive; unsophisticated
- Narcissistic — self-admiring; pathologically self-centered
- Obsequious — fawning; overly submissive or obedient; servile; groveling
- Outraged — furious or extremely angered; deeply offended
- Pretentious — affected; artificial; grandiose; flashy; superficial
- Satirical — mocking to show a weakness; ridiculing; derisive; scornful
- Sarcastic — ironic; saying the opposite of what you mean to mock or ridicule
- Scathing — harsh; critical; cutting; unsparing; vicious; harmful or injurious
- Sensationalistic — inaccurate; hyped up; exxagerated; provocative
- Subjective — biased; prejudiced; based on emotion rather than facts
- Sulking — resentful; sullen; bad-tempered; grumpy; self-pitying
- Tragic — calamitous; disastrous; catastrophic; devastating
- Uneasy — worried; ill at ease; edgy; nervous; unsettled
- Vindictive — vengeful; spiteful; petty; unforgiving; hateful
- World-weary — bored; tired; cynical; pessimistic
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Sad Tone Words
Some negative tone words leave you with an impression of sadness rather than disgust or anger.
Here’s a sampling of these, most of them described using other sad tone words.
- Apologetic — full of regret or remorse; repentant; acknowleding failure
- Depressed — lacking in energy or buoyancy; apathetic; emotionally blunted
- Despairing — hopeless; sinking without an attempt to rise; seeing only darkness
- Disheartening — discouraging; depressing; demoralizing; undermining; sad
- Gloomy — depressing; dreary; discouraging; sad or low-spirited; pessimistic
- Grave — serious; morose or moribund; solemn; weighty; important
- Hollow — lacking substance; empty; meaningless; joyless
- Melancholy — sad or prone to sadness; having a gloomy outlook
- Pathetic — evoking pity; marked by sorrow or sadness; pitifully inadequate
- Somber — gloomy; solemn; grave; melancholy; depressing
- Wretched — miserable; sorrowful; distressed or in agony; despairing
When you want a neutral tone in writing, it can be hard to find.
It doesn’t take much for us to associate words with an emotion or to feel the emotional undercurrent of a word — whether positive or negative and to whatever degree. But some neutral words remain.
- Ambivalent — uncertain; having mixed feelings; undecided
- Cautionary — raises awareness; gives warning; admonishing
- Compliant — in conformity with rules/expectations; flexible; acquiescent
- Conciliatory — meant to pacify or placate; seeking to please
- Colloquial — familiar; everyday language; casual or informal
- Defensive — defending or guarding a position; watchful; preventing aggression
- Formal — respectful; following accepted rules/styles; preserving form/custom
- Impartial — objective; not favoring either side over the other
- Intense — deeply felt; concentrated; passionate; earnest; extreme
- Introspective — inward-focused or turning inward; contemplative
- Pensive — lost in thought; introspective or reflective; contemplative
- Pragmatic — realistic; dispassionate or detached; ruled by logic; practical
- Solemn — serious; not funny; in earnest; sober; reverent; grave; mirthless
- Urgent — insistent; implying something must be done as soon as possible
Now that you’ve looked through our list of tones, which ones stood out for you the most? What kind of tone did those words have (positive, negative, or neutral)?
Sometimes, our moods make certain words stand out for us as more fitting or more resonant. And sometimes we just see them because we’ve used them or heard them used recently — in a way that made them stick.
I hope your life gives you plenty of reasons to use positive tone words. But some situations and contexts call for the opposite. Your current work in progress might call for plenty of the opposite.
And in certain contexts, even the neutral tone words sound more negative than otherwise. The right context can even change the tone of words that are usually considered positive.
I hope the words you use to describe yourself are kind and encouraging. And at the end of the day, may the balance of your words leave you with a smile.
Definition of Tone
Tone is a literary device that reflects the writer’s attitude toward the subject matter or audience of a literary work. By conveying this attitude through tone, the writer creates a particular relationship with the reader that, in turn, influences the intention and meaning of the written words. However, though the writer’s tone may reflect their personal attitude or opinion, this literary device may also strictly apply to convey the attitudes and feelings of a certain character or narrator . Therefore, it’s essential for readers to look closely at the literary choices made by the writer so as not to unfairly assign a tone to them and to interpret tone judiciously.
Writers use several techniques to convey tone, including word choice, figurative language , punctuation , and even sentence structure. This helps to establish a narrative voice so that the reader not only understands the words as they are presented in a work but also their meanings, as intended by the writer, character, or narrator. A defined tone allows readers to connect with the writer and/or their narrators and characters.
For example, in his short story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” Edgar Allan Poe utilizes tone as a literary device to convey the way the narrator feels about the old man and his eye.
His eye was like the eye of a vulture, the eye of one of those terrible birds that watch and wait while an animal dies, and then fall upon the dead body and pull it to pieces to eat it.
The tone of this passage reveals that the narrator fears and is distressed by the old man’s eye. This is conveyed by Poe’s use of a vulture as a figurative comparison and the violent imagery associated with the remaining wording. As a result of this defined tone in describing the old man’s eye, the reader understands the narrator’s simultaneous feelings of revulsion and fascination. This establishes the narrator’s attitude and motive for the reader, which helps to reinforce the actions and events of the story .
Common Examples of Tone Used by Writers
Just as tone of voice can express sentiment and emotion in speaking, tone can do the same in writing. Here are some common examples of tone used by writers to convey feeling:
Famous Examples of Tone in Movie Lines
One of the challenges that writers face regarding tone as a literary device is how to ensure that the reader “hears” the narrative voice properly. Without the natural inflection, emphasis, etc., of the human voice, tone can be difficult to convey in writing. In contrast , movie lines allow actors to utilize tone to an extent that it sometimes overshadows the words being spoken. Here are some examples of tone in lines from famous movies:
- “Go ahead, make my day.” Sudden Impac t
- “That is so fetch.” Mean Girls
- “May the Force be with you.” Star Wars
- “Just keep swimming.” Finding Nemo
- “I still believe in heroes .” Avengers
- “There’s no place like home.” The Wizard of Oz
- “You can’t handle the truth!” A Few Good Men
- “I’m the king of the world!” Titanic
- “To infinity and beyond!” Toy Story
- “What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?” No Country for Old Men
Difference Between Tone and Mood
As literary devices , tone and mood may seem interchangeable. Though they are similar, they are independent of each other and serve different purposes in a literary work. Tone signifies the point of view of the writer, whereas mood serves to convey the atmosphere of a written work and its overall feeling or vibe. Writers rely on figurative language and other literary devices to evoke mood in the reader, whereas dialogue and descriptors are typically used to convey tone.
Many of the words used to describe a literary work’s tone can also be used to describe mood, such as passionate, wistful, nostalgic, etc. In narrative work, a character’s tone is conveyed to the reader through specific dialogue and descriptions of the character’s body language, facial expression, and so on. Mood, however, does not always align with the tone expressed by a writer, narrator, or character. For example, a writer may set a mournful mood through a work’s genre , setting , context clues, and plot details; yet, certain characters may be unaware of the sad circumstances and their dialogue may reflect a completely different tone.
Three Types of Tone: Non-assertive, Aggressive, and Assertive
When a literary piece just presents facts and does not show any information using persuasive or convincing word choice, it is a nonassertive tone. However, when it attacks the position of the other party or persons, using words, showing aggression and anger, it means the tone is aggressive. And if there is no sign of anger, and the expression is calm, peaceful, and somewhat pacifist, it means the tone is assertive. Even such tones could be non-assertive aggressive, confused, assertive aggressive, and so on. In short, it depends on the word choice and the readers’ perception.
Use of Tone in Sentences
- You are a terrible liar! (Aggressive tone)
- If you don’t do what I say, I’ll beat you to the pulp. (Aggressive tone)
- You have to pick your legos from the floor and put them in the basket. So, when I come back, I don’t want to see anything lying around. (Assertive tone)
- I don’t really like the way you talk to me. I’ll thank you for your manners. (Assertive tone)
- I’m sorry you lost your ticket. Kindly get off the bus and get another one. (Non-assertive tone)
- Thanks for not answering my call. I was at the hospital for your sister and she needed you. A great brother you are! (non-assertive tone)
Examples of Tone in Literature
As a literary device, tone is an important aspect of the narrative voice of a literary work. This allows the writer to inform the reader and communicate attitudes and feelings that might otherwise be limited in conveying with just words. Here are some examples of tone in literature:
Example 1: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
A child will make two dishes at an entertainment for friends; and when the family dines alone , the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter .
Swift’s “proposal” that poverty in early 18th century Ireland could be mitigated by butchering the children of poor Irish families and selling them as food to wealthy English citizens is intended as satire , and the narrator’s tone reflects this. Swift presents his satire as an economic treatise with the appearance of a formal, distant, and systematic tone. However, the underlying tone of Swift’s writing reflects that of disillusionment, irony , and even provocation toward the reader.
In this literary work, the emotionally distant and acerbic wording of Swift serves to enhance the writer’s intense criticism regarding the legal and economic exploitation of Ireland by England. In this way, Swift’s “proposal” is meant to evoke strong emotion among readers and thereby invoke a call to action as a result. As a literary device, the tone is effective in this work in its impact on the reader of shock and discomfort as a means of bringing about societal awareness and change.
Example 2: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
We are travelers on a cosmic journey, stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.
In this passage from The Alchemist , Coelho utilizes descriptive and figurative language to establish a tone of wonder and awe at the metaphysical relationships in the universe. By asserting to the reader that “we” are metaphorical travelers that are all part of the infinite cosmos, Coelho is able to convey the connection humans have to all that has existed and all that will exist. This allows the reader to feel connections with the writer’s words, their meanings, and the universe itself through the literary work. In addition, the inclusion of the image that human interaction is a momentary and temporary encounter “to meet, to love, to share” implies that people’s lives are brief and precious against the scope of the universe and a parenthetical interruption of a larger narrative. This calls for the reader to reflect on how they choose to impact, even briefly, the people and world around them.
Writers often find it challenging to express universal meaning in a literary work with denotative and connotative wording. In this passage, Coelho utilizes tone as a literary device to convey a universality to human existence as it relates to time and space. This is appealing to the reader in the sense that it conveys belonging and connection to all things while also acknowledging the existence and importance of the individual at momentary points along the continuum.
Example 3: Beloved by Toni Morrison
And in all those escapes he could not help being astonished by the beauty of this land that was not his. He hid in its breast, fingered its earth for food, clung to its banks to lap water and tried not to love it. On nights when the sky was personal, weak with the weight of its own stars, he made himself not love it. Its graveyards and its low-lying rivers. Or just a house – solitary under a chinaberry tree; maybe a mule tethered and the light hitting its hide just so. Anything could stir him and he tried hard not to love it.
In this passage of Morrison’s novel , the narrator’s description of Paul D’s conflicting feelings towards the American landscape in which he lives sets a significant tone for the reader that reflects his inner pain. Paul D is a former slave, and readers of the novel would not expect his character to feel anything but animosity towards the people and land that have enslaved him. However, as the narrator informs the reader, Paul D internally struggles to “not love” America for its beauty and, essentially, its broken promises of freedom, liberty, and equality .
By incorporating a maternal image in this passage of Paul D hiding, fingering, and clinging to America for survival, Morrison evokes in the reader the feeling that America has “birthed” Paul D and wants to care for him. However, the reason he can’t embrace and love America as a motherland is because of the hypocrisy in its treatment and rejection of him. The tone of Morrison’s words conveys Paul D’s deep conflict and struggle between his simultaneous attachment to the American landscape and what it claims to represent and resentment of the reality and hypocrisy of slavery. By using this literary device, Morrison is able to connect through the narrative voice with readers who may not be able to otherwise understand the complexity and anguish of Paul D’s feelings.
Example 4: The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
“She would have suffered. My family would have never accepted her as an equal. You don’t order someone to polish your shoes one day and call them ‘sister’ the next.” He looked at me. “You know, you can tell me anything you want, Amir jan. Anytime.”
These lines from the novel of Khalid Hosseini, an Afghani, show its tone serious yet biased. The narrator is clear that his family is biased toward the Hazara, a minority Shia community in Afghanistan.
Example 5: The Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
Some persons of a desponding spirit are in great concern about that vast number of poor people, who are aged, diseased, or maimed; and I have been desired to employ my thoughts what course may be taken, to ease the nation of so grievous an incumbrance. But I am not in the least pain upon that matter, because it is very well known, that they are every day dying, and rotting, by cold and famine, and filth, and vermin, as fast as can be reasonably expected.
These lines show the satiric tone of Jonathan Swift . Although it seems a simple suggestion, the choice of the word shows that he thinks that the aged, diseased, and the maimed are just an “incumbrance.”
Synonyms of Tone
Tone does not have close synonyms used in literature. However, generally, mood, quality, feel, style , air, note, attitude, spirit, character, temper, flavor, and tenor could be interchangeably used.
- A Pound of Flesh
- Alas, Poor Yorick!
- Miles to Go Before I Sleep
- All the World’s a Stage
- Neither a Borrower Nor a Lender Be
- My Kingdom for a Horse
- Once More unto the Breach
- To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
- Hamlet Act-I, Scene-I Study Guide
- Curiosity Killed the Cat
- Raining Cats and Dogs
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- How to Set the Tone of an Essay? Tips for an Author
- How to Set the Tone of an Essay? Why Is It Important for Your Grade?
Formal and Informal Tone.
Version 1 (informal)., version 2 (formal)., don’t be too formal., how to be confident and positive in your writing, don’t know how to improve the tone of your essay.
An essay is a challenging and exciting task every student faces in college and university. The tone of an essay is an essential aspect. Every scholar should consider it during writing. An informal tone may spoil the impression of the academic piece, reduce its grade. No matter, what is the subject of your work, essay tone should be formal. Every author has to pick his tone carefully. He must follow some essential rules to avoid inappropriate words in his writing piece. Different tones create a specific atmosphere. A reader should feel the mood and attitude of the writer. In our article, you will learn more about various essay tones; find useful rules on hot to use effective tone in your papers.
There are plenty of tones the authors can apply: sarcastic, humorous or frustrated. A formal style is the most appropriate language a student can use in his papers. Choose the style according to your instructor’s demands. Avoid low results. Remember about your primary purpose and write the paper according to the provided requirements. It will show your serious attitude and prove that you have enough knowledge and skills to complete the assignment. Don’t use an informal style in your piece. It can spoil the impression of your piece. Elements like slang, colloquialisms or sentence fragments are inappropriate because these elements are great to a personal story not for the serious piece. Here are some examples of informal words and collocations: you know; like; super big; big deal; you, your, yours (second-person perspective).
Find the balance. Show serious attitude to the subject of your work and apply specific author’s elements that highlight natural tone and essential facts.
Let’s look at two examples of paper fragments related to the necessity of car seats for babies.
Let’s pretend that your husband drives the car. You keep your four-month-old daughter on your arms on the back seat. The situation seems comfy and cute. It is dangerous instead. Even if we don’t think about a car accident, the driver may brake hard and cause a massive shake inside the car. If you don’t have a car seat, such situation is a big deal for a baby and may cause serious traumas.
Car seats for babies are crucial to their safety. Parents should use this kind of baby essentials every time they get their son or daughter in the car. It helps to protect a baby. You may avoid plenty of dangerous situations that may occur while driving.
Version 1 would be appropriate for blog articles not for the formal papers. It includes incorrect elements, the improper tone of writing. Version 2 helps to convey the primary aim of writing and attract readers’ attention to a serious subject.
During education, people have various assignments and writing tasks that require specific skills or have strict rules. The pieces can vary depending on its purpose; not all of them should sound too formal. Sometimes, you can choose and apply creative elements. Appropriate joke or interesting story can be a good option for a narrative of your descriptive essay . This tone will make your piece easy to read and exciting. The paper will grab the readers’ attention. It means that paper purpose and requirements matter for the tone and style. If you clearly understand them, you will make the right choice and pick a proper tone of an essay that won’t be too formal or boring for readers.
Here are a few useful tips . They will help you to avoid mistakes related to incorrect language and tone.
- Don’t use too long sentences; it worsens readability and overall impression of your piece. Use fewer words and be natural.
- Try to use verbs instead of compound nouns because it is a clear sign of stiffness, boring writing that can't excite.
- Avoid the verb “to be”. Prefer active verbs in your papers.
- Use conversational language that makes your story exciting and easy-to-read. Remember that informal style is inappropriate for academic papers . Write your essay like an interview not chatting with your friends.
The primary aim of the majority of pieces is to grab the readers’ attention, give interesting facts about the subject and a story that make them read it to the end. We offer you the list of simple but efficient ways to improve your tone of an essay: make it confident, positive, and passionate.
- Avoid depressing and somber phrases. Even if your task is related to negative aspects, don’t forget to highlight some positive elements.
- Make confident statements without using Prefaces. Avoid such phrases as “I strongly believe” or “I think.” They don’t make your text confident and worsen your language.
- Prefer action verbs as many times as possible. Try to convey your readers how passionate you are about the subject of your work. Don’t use passive language and stiff phrases. Impressive essay tone means you, like an artist, show your audience the scene of your story. Active phrases help to express your feelings and emphasize the fundamental idea of your work.
- Show your role in the essay. A tone of writing depends on the author’s part and his actions. If you describe a personal experience or significant actions that influenced the final result, don’t forget to write about your role. It helps to add new elements to your piece. You may highlight the essential aspects.
Creating an essay and picking the proper tone is a tricky task. It is a problem for many students. If you have doubts about the tone of your paper, you may choose professional assistance. Give your work to experience writers and editors. Visit our site to explore the range of services and find more useful tips to write an essay about yourself .
We hope our pieces of advice will help you to improve your tone, find new opportunities to express your feelings properly and create engaging writing pieces in various niches.
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- The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples
The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples
Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.
An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.
Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type.
In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.
Table of contents
Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.
An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.
Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.
The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:
- The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
- The body presents your evidence and arguments
- The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance
The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.
A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.
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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.
Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.
The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.
A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.
The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.
A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.
Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.
A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.
Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.
Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.
Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.
A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.
The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.
A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.
Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.
A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.
Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.
On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.
My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.
With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…
Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.
Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.
A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.
The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.
The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.
The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.
King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.
A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.
Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.
The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.
Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.
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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.
Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”
The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.
Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:
- In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
- In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
- In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory
An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.
An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.
The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.
Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.
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How to Identify Tone in an Essay
Tone is another word for attitude. The attitude of a writer is reflected in the choice of words, the phrasing and the overall style and organization of the essay. The tone must be appropriate to the subject and purpose of the essay. An informative essay on an earthquake disaster, for example, will have a serious, respectful tone, whereas an essay on a local hero will have an admiring tone. In a persuasive essay, the tone and attitude will be calculated to convince the reader to agree with the writer.
Read the essay once straight through without stopping to analyze. This gives an overall sense of the essay.
Read the essay critically this time, annotating it by making notes in the margins. Ask questions such as: What is the purpose of this essay? What is the topic. What is the main idea? How does the writer support the ideas? What kinds of words and images are used?
Make notes on the responses to the questions you asked in Step 2 and list examples from the essay. Pay special attention to the details, including vocabulary choices and sentence styles.
Analyze your notes. Review the subject, purpose and style of the essay, including the word choice and the kinds of examples used. Ask the questions: What is the attitude of this writer to the subject? How does the writer feel about the topic?
Consult a list of words that describe various tones and decide which one best fits the essay. Capital Community College Foundation Guide to Grammar and Writing lists some examples: informal or formal; light or serious; subjective or objective, to name a few. (See link in References.)
- 1 Purdue Online Writing Lab: Literary Terms; Sean M. Conrey, et al.; October 2010
- 2 University of Maryland University College: Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns; 2010
About the Author
Anna Story has written professionally since 1974. Her poetry appears in "Black Fly Review" and "Kentucky Poetry Review," among others. Her essays are included in "Resilience," "Students’ Encyclopedia of American Literary Characters" and "The Southern Quarterly." She holds a M.A. in English from the University of North Carolina.
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8 Ways You Can Improve Your Communication Skills
Your guide to establishing better communication habits for success in the workplace.
Mary Sharp Emerson
A leader’s ability to communicate clearly and effectively with employees, within teams, and across the organization is one of the foundations of a successful business.
And in today’s complex and quickly evolving business environment, with hundreds of different communication tools, fully or partially remote teams, and even multicultural teams spanning multiple time zones, effective communication has never been more important—or more challenging.
Thus, the ability to communicate might be a manager’s most critical skill.
The good news is that these skills can be learned and even mastered.
These eight tips can help you maximize your communication skills for the success of your organization and your career.
1. Be clear and concise
Communication is primarily about word choice. And when it comes to word choice, less is more.
The key to powerful and persuasive communication—whether written or spoken—is clarity and, when possible, brevity.
Before engaging in any form of communication, define your goals and your audience.
Outlining carefully and explicitly what you want to convey and why will help ensure that you include all necessary information. It will also help you eliminate irrelevant details.
Avoid unnecessary words and overly flowery language, which can distract from your message.
And while repetition may be necessary in some cases, be sure to use it carefully and sparingly. Repeating your message can ensure that your audience receives it, but too much repetition can cause them to tune you out entirely.
2. Prepare ahead of time
Know what you are going to say and how you are going to say before you begin any type of communication.
However, being prepared means more than just practicing a presentation.
Preparation also involves thinking about the entirety of the communication, from start to finish. Research the information you may need to support your message. Consider how you will respond to questions and criticisms. Try to anticipate the unexpected.
Before a performance review, for instance, prepare a list of concrete examples of your employee’s behavior to support your evaluation.
Before engaging in a salary or promotion negotiation, know exactly what you want. Be ready to discuss ranges and potential compromises; know what you are willing to accept and what you aren’t. And have on hand specific details to support your case, such as relevant salaries for your position and your location (but be sure that your research is based on publicly available information, not company gossip or anecdotal evidence).
Before entering into any conversation, brainstorm potential questions, requests for additional information or clarification, and disagreements so you are ready to address them calmly and clearly.
3. Be mindful of nonverbal communication
Our facial expressions, gestures, and body language can, and often do, say more than our words.
Nonverbal cues can have between 65 and 93 percent more impact than the spoken word. And we are more likely to believe the nonverbal signals over spoken words if the two are in disagreement.
Leaders must be especially adept at reading nonverbal cues.
Employees who may be unwilling to voice disagreements or concerns, for instance, may show their discomfort through crossed arms or an unwillingness to make eye contact. If you are aware of others’ body language, you may be able to adjust your communication tactics appropriately.
At the same time, leaders must also be able to control their own nonverbal communications.
Your nonverbal cues must, at all times, support your message. At best, conflicting verbal and nonverbal communication can cause confusion. At worst, it can undermine your message and your team’s confidence in you, your organization, and even in themselves.
4. Watch your tone
How you say something can be just as important as what you say. As with other nonverbal cues, your tone can add power and emphasis to your message, or it can undermine it entirely.
Tone can be an especially important factor in workplace disagreements and conflict. A well-chosen word with a positive connotation creates good will and trust. A poorly chosen word with unclear or negative connotations can quickly lead to misunderstanding.
When speaking, tone includes volume, projection, and intonation as well as word choice. In real time, it can be challenging to control tone to ensure that it matches your intent. But being mindful of your tone will enable you to alter it appropriately if a communication seems to be going in the wrong direction.
Tone can be easier to control when writing. Be sure to read your communication once, even twice, while thinking about tone as well as message. You may even want to read it out loud or ask a trusted colleague to read it over, if doing so does not breach confidentiality.
And when engaging in a heated dialogue over email or other written medium, don’t be too hasty in your replies.
If at all possible, write out your response but then wait for a day or two to send it. In many cases, re-reading your message after your emotions have cooled allows you to moderate your tone in a way that is less likely to escalate the conflict.
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5. Practice active listening
Communication nearly always involves two or more individuals.
Therefore, listening is just as important as speaking when it comes to communicating successfully. But listening can be more challenging than we realize.
In her blog post Mastering the Basics of Communication , communication expert Marjorie North notes that we only hear about half of what the other person says during any given conversation.
The goal of active listening is to ensure that you hear not just the words the person is saying, but the entire message. Some tips for active listening include:
- Giving the speaker your full and undivided attention
- Clearing your mind of distractions, judgements, and counter-arguments.
- Avoiding the temptation to interrupt with your own thoughts.
- Showing open, positive body language to keep your mind focused and to show the speaker that you are really listening
- Rephrase or paraphrase what you’ve heard when making your reply
- Ask open ended questions designed to elicit additional information
6. Build your emotional intelligence
Communication is built upon a foundation of emotional intelligence. Simply put, you cannot communicate effectively with others until you can assess and understand your own feelings.
“If you’re aware of your own emotions and the behaviors they trigger, you can begin to manage these emotions and behaviors,” says Margaret Andrews in her post, How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence .
Leaders with a high level of emotional intelligence will naturally find it easier to engage in active listening, maintain appropriate tone, and use positive body language, for example.
Understanding and managing your own emotions is only part of emotional intelligence. The other part—equally important for effective communication—is empathy for others.
Empathizing with an employee can, for example, make a difficult conversation easier.
You may still have to deliver bad news, but (actively) listening to their perspective and showing that you understand their feelings can go a long way toward smoothing hurt feelings or avoiding misunderstandings.
7. Develop a workplace communication strategy
Today’s workplace is a constant flow of information across a wide variety of formats. Every single communication must be understood in the context of that larger flow of information.
Even the most effective communicator may find it difficult to get their message across without a workplace communication strategy.
A communication strategy is the framework within which your business conveys and receives information. It can—and should—outline how and what you communicate to customers and clients, stakeholders, and managers and employees.
Starting most broadly, your strategy should incorporate who gets what message and when. This ensures that everyone receives the correct information at the right time.
It can be as detailed as how you communicate, including defining the type of tools you use for which information. For example, you may define when it’s appropriate to use a group chat for the entire team or organization or when a meeting should have been summarized in an email instead.
Creating basic guidelines like this can streamline the flow of information. It will help ensure that everyone gets the details they need and that important knowledge isn’t overwhelmed by extraneous minutia.
8. Create a positive organizational culture
The corporate culture in which you are communicating also plays a vital role in effective communication.
In a positive work environment—one founded on transparency, trust, empathy, and open dialogue—communication in general will be easier and more effective.
Employees will be more receptive to hearing their manager’s message if they trust that manager. And managers will find it easier to create buy-in and even offer constructive criticism if they encourage their employees to speak up, offer suggestions, and even offer constructive criticisms of their own.
“The most dangerous organization is a silent one,” says Lorne Rubis in a blog post, Six Tips for Building a Better Workplace Culture . Communication, in both directions, can only be effective in a culture that is built on trust and a foundation of psychological safety.
Authoritative managers who refuse to share information, aren’t open to suggestions, and refuse to admit mistakes and accept criticism are likely to find their suggestions and criticisms met with defensiveness or even ignored altogether.
Without that foundation of trust and transparency, even the smallest communication can be misconstrued and lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.
Communicating with co-workers and employees is always going to present challenges. There will always be misunderstandings and miscommunications that must be resolved and unfortunately, corporate messages aren’t always what we want to hear, especially during difficult times.
But building and mastering effective communication skills will make your job easier as a leader, even during difficult conversations. Taking the time to build these skills will certainly be time well-spent.
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About the Author
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Emerson is a Digital Content Producer at Harvard DCE. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and Yale University and started her career as an international affairs analyst. She is an avid triathlete and has completed three Ironman triathlons, as well as the Boston Marathon.
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