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Reading Skills

How to identify author’s tone.

  • The Albert Team
  • Last Updated On: November 29, 2023

how to determine the tone of an essay

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Introduction

Have you ever wondered why some stories make you laugh while others make you think deeply? This is often the work of an element known as ‘tone’ in literature. Authors use tone to give their writing a distinct feeling, whether it’s light and humorous or serious and thoughtful. As a student, understanding the concept of author’s tone is vital for fully appreciating and comprehending the texts you read.

In this post, we’ll explore the ways to identify and analyze an author’s tone in different writings. Developing this skill will not only enhance your reading experience but also deepen your understanding of the intentions behind the stories you encounter.

What is Author’s Tone?

When we talk about an author’s tone, we’re referring to the attitude or feeling that their writing conveys. It’s like when someone talks to you; their voice, choice of words, and way of speaking can show if they’re excited, sad, or joking. In writing, tone is created through the author’s choice of words, their sentence structure, and even the imagery they use.

how to determine the tone of an essay

For example, a story that describes a sunny, vibrant park with laughing children has a cheerful tone, while a story set in a dimly lit, quiet room might have a more serious or mysterious tone. Understanding an author’s tone helps us get a better sense of the story’s mood and the message the author wants to share. It’s like having a conversation with the author through their words.

How to Determine Author’s Tone

Determining an author’s tone might seem challenging, but it becomes much easier when you know what to look for. Just like detectives gather clues to solve a mystery, we can gather clues from a text to understand its tone. Three key elements – Word Choice , Sentence Structure, and Imagery – serve as our main tools in this detective work. By closely examining how an author chooses their words, constructs their sentences, and paints pictures with their descriptions, we can uncover the tone hidden within the lines of any story. Let’s break down these tools one by one to see how each contributes to revealing the author’s tone.

Word Choice

The words an author chooses are like the individual brushstrokes in a painting; each one contributes to the overall impression. Word choice is a powerful tool in establishing tone. Think about how a writer’s use of words like ‘exhilarating,’ ‘terrifying,’ or ‘melancholic’ can instantly convey excitement, fear, or sadness.

how to determine the tone of an essay

It’s not just about the meaning of the words, but also their connotations – the feelings or ideas they evoke. For instance, describing a day as ‘glowing’ versus ‘blazing’ can create very different atmospheres; one suggests a pleasant, bright day, while the other might imply oppressive heat. Authors carefully select each word to craft a specific mood and guide our emotional response to the story. By tuning into these choices, you can start to sense the tone the author is aiming for, whether it’s hopeful, despairing, playful, or serious.

Sentence Structure

Just as important as word choice, the structure of an author’s sentences can greatly influence the tone of a piece. Think of sentence structure as the rhythm of the story. Short, abrupt sentences might create a sense of urgency or tension, making the reader feel the quick pace of the events. On the other hand, long, flowing sentences often bring a more calm or reflective mood, allowing the reader to ponder and absorb the details.

For example, a suspenseful scene might use brief, choppy sentences to keep you on the edge of your seat, while a descriptive passage about a serene landscape might use longer sentences to immerse you in the setting. By observing how sentences are constructed, you can gain insight into the emotional pacing of the story and the tone the author is conveying.

Imagery, the vivid pictures that authors create through descriptive language, plays a pivotal role in setting the tone of a story. It’s all about the visual details the author provides to bring scenes to life in our minds. These descriptions can range from the lush greenery of a tranquil forest to the stark, grey buildings of a bustling city, each setting a different tone.

how to determine the tone of an essay

Think of imagery as the backdrop against which the story unfolds. If an author describes a setting sun casting long shadows and painting the sky in hues of orange and red, it might evoke feelings of calmness or reflection. Conversely, a description of a thunderstorm with jagged lightning could create a tense or ominous atmosphere. By closely examining the imagery in a text, you can uncover the emotional landscape the author is painting and better understand the tone they are aiming to convey.

Context Matters: The Role of Setting and Circumstance

In the quest to understand an author’s tone, context is a crucial piece of the puzzle. The setting and circumstances of a story often provide key insights into the tone the author is trying to convey. Think of context as the backdrop against which the story unfolds. The historical period, cultural background, and even the geographical location can influence the mood and tone of the writing.

For instance, a story set in a war-torn country will likely have a different tone than one set in a peaceful, idyllic village. Similarly, the personal circumstances of the characters, such as their emotional state or life experiences, can greatly affect the tone. A narrative from the perspective of a character who just experienced loss will have a different tone than that of a character celebrating a victory. Recognizing these contextual elements helps you better understand not just what the author is saying, but how and why they’re saying it, offering a more complete picture of the story’s tone.

List of Tone Words

In literature, a wide array of tone words can be used to describe the feeling or atmosphere a text conveys. These words help to categorize and articulate the emotional undercurrents of a story. Here are some examples:

  • Positive Tones : Optimistic, jubilant, lighthearted, amused, enthusiastic.
  • Negative Tones : Pessimistic, mournful, bitter, cynical, foreboding.
  • Neutral Tones : Reflective, informative, objective, detached, contemplative.
  • Serious Tones : Solemn, grave, earnest, intense, impassioned.
  • Playful Tones : Whimsical, humorous, ironic, satirical, witty.
  • Tense Tones : Anxious, suspenseful, apprehensive, alarming, tense.

Understanding these tone words and being able to identify them in a text can greatly improve your ability to grasp the author’s intended message. As you read different texts, try to think about which of these words best describe the tone of the piece. As a result, this practice will not only improve your comprehension but also enrich your overall reading experience.

how to determine the tone of an essay

Step by Step Guide to Analyzing Author’s Tone

Although analyzing the tone of a text may seem daunting, breaking it down into manageable steps can simplify the process. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you:

  • Initial Impression : Start by reading a section of the text and note your first impressions. Ask yourself, what is the general mood? Does it feel light, dark, serious, or playful?
  • Identify Key Elements : Look for the elements that contribute to this mood. Focus on the word choice, sentence structure, and imagery. Are there any words or phrases that particularly stand out? How are the sentences constructed? What kind of imagery is used?
  • Refer to the List of Tone Words : Use the list of tone words to help put a name to the tone you’re sensing. Is it optimistic, whimsical, grave, or something else?
  • Contextual Clues : Consider the context of the text. What is happening in the story at this point? How might the events, characters, or setting influence the tone?
  • Reflect and Conclude : After considering these aspects, reflect on how they come together to create the overall tone. Try to articulate your thoughts, either in discussion or by writing them down. This reflection will deepen your understanding of the text and the author’s intentions.

Remember, practice is key. The more you analyze different texts, the more intuitive this process will become. This practice will enhance your ability to appreciate the nuanced craft of writing.

Application: Analyzing Author’s Tone in George Washington’s Farewell Address

how to determine the tone of an essay

Let’s put our tone analysis skills into action with a real example: George Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796. This historical speech offers a perfect opportunity to see how our step-by-step guide works in practice.

  • Initial Impression : Reading the address, you might sense a formal and serious atmosphere. Washington’s words carry a weight of importance and reflection.
  • Word Choice : Notice Washington’s use of dignified language, like “steadfast confidence” and “inviolable attachment.” These terms help create a tone of solemnity and respect.
  • Sentence Structure : The complex and methodical structure of his sentences, such as “In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend…,” adds to the formal and thoughtful tone.
  • Imagery : Washington employs evocative imagery, referring to “the edifice of your real independence” and “the mansions of rest,” which contributes to a reflective and historical mood.
  • Refer to the List of Tone Words : The overall tone of this excerpt is best described as solemn, respectful, and contemplative. Washington’s choice of words and sentence construction conveys a deep sense of duty and reflection.
  • Contextual Clues : Remember, Washington was addressing a young nation as its first President, a context that underscores the seriousness and gravity of his tone.
  • Reflect and Conclude : Combining these elements, the tone of Washington’s address emerges as one of solemn reflection and earnest advice. His language and structure reflect the responsibility he feels towards the nation’s future, emphasizing unity and caution in times of change.

This exercise demonstrates how using our step-by-step guide can help you identify the tone in even the most historical and formal texts.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you understand how to identify the author’s tone, it’s time to continue practicing these important skills. Albert offers many opportunities to test your new knowledge of the impact of an author’s word choice on the tone of the text.

Our Short Readings course provides short passages that focus on a specific skill. For example, check out our questions about citing text evidence or analyzing how word choice shapes meaning and tone. You can also find more questions to practice close reading skills with our Leveled Readings course. This course includes a passages about the same topic written at 4 different Lexile® levels so you can tailor the reading content to your needs.

Albert’s platform is user-friendly and gives you quick feedback, so you can learn from your mistakes and keep growing as a reader. Whether it’s analyzing the author’s tone or determining the central idea, Albert is your go-to resource!

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  • Writing Tips

How to Determine a Piece of Writing’s Tone

How to Determine a Piece of Writing’s Tone

5-minute read

  • 3rd December 2022

Whether you’re analyzing a text for school or working on your own writing , being able to identify tone is an essential skill.

In this post, we give you some tips on how to determine the tone of any piece of writing.

What Is Tone?

“Tone” can be hard to understand. But in the context of writing, it can be summarized as the way an author expresses information to evoke a certain emotional response to the subject matter.

We normally use adjectives to describe a tone. And there are as many tones as emotions, which means the options are almost endless!

However, there are a few types of tones that appear often in writing, including:

Tone can be set in many ways, such as through word choice, syntax, point of view, and a lot of other subtle and abstract ways. For a more in-depth look at different types of tones, see our blog post on the subject.

To help you determine tone in writing, we’ll examine some of these tools in detail.

1. Understand the Context

A piece of writing’s tone will be heavily influenced by the circumstances under which it is written. These include its form or genre, its intended audience, and where it’s published.

For example, if you were writing or analyzing an article for a scientific journal, you’d expect the tone to be formal, technical, and matter-of-fact.

If you were writing or analyzing a short story in an anthology for children, on the other hand, the tone would probably be more informal, lighthearted, and optimistic.

To help determine tone, ask yourself these questions about a piece of writing:

●  Where will it be published?

●  Who’s the intended audience?

●  What genre or subject matter does it cover?

You can then use the answers to these questions to get an idea of what tone the piece should use.

2. Pay Attention to Vocabulary

Word choice is one of the most crucial elements of establishing tone.

Two sentences with the same basic meaning can have different tone depending on the words the author uses.

Take the examples below:

Though both sentences describe the same thing (a man adjusting his collar before walking into a room), the choice of nouns, adjectives, and adverbs drastically changes how we interpret what’s happening.

When analyzing a text or writing your own piece, you should think about certain words’ connotations and the emotions they inspire. Are they positive, negative, or neutral? If you swapped a word for one with a similar meaning but a different tone, how would your understanding of the sentence change?

You should also consider the effects of:

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●  Long, complex words (e.g., “Machiavellian”) vs. short, simple words (e.g., “evil”)

●  Multiple adjectives and adverbs (e.g., “the beautiful, resplendent scarlet macaw”) vs. few describing words (e.g., “the parrot”)

●  Technical jargon (e.g., “parallel processing”)

●  Slang, colloquialisms, and idioms (e.g., “Slang drives me up the wall”)

3. Consider Punctuation

Authors can also use punctuation to achieve a certain tone.

Here’s how common punctuation can influence a piece of writing’s tone:

●  Exclamation marks indicate excitement, surprise, or other strong emotions. Using exclamation marks can imply a more informal and lighthearted tone, though they can also be used to show passion and persuade the reader of something. Writing that lacks exclamation marks establishes a formal tone but can come across as cold or dismissive.

●  Question marks invite the opinion of the reader into the writing, whether the question asked is rhetorical or not. They can imply a considerate and communicative tone, but they can also indicate confusion, ignorance, or conflict.

●  Periods, commas, and other pauses control the speed at which text is read. Adding more periods can slow a piece of writing down or break it into smaller parts, which can work to build a straightforward, reserved, or sharp tone. Adding more commas extends the length and complexity of sentences, which can create a passionate and suspenseful tone, or even one that seems avoidant.

4. Check Grammar Usage

Using grammar to indicate tone can be more subtle.

For example, an author may choose to use different pronouns to write from a particular grammatical point of view :

●  First person singular provides information from one perspective, so while it can establish an authoritative or personal tone, it can also imply a limited view of the world.

●  First person plural usually indicates an inclusive tone, but in some contexts, it can build a tone that’s condescending or even unsettling.

●  Second person is rare in writing but can create a persuasive, accusatory, or conspiratorial tone.

●  Third person is most often used to tell a story or describe something, so it can establish an informative and objective tone. At the same time, it can create a tone that’s more detached from the subject matter.

And while there are grammatical rules that writers are usually expected to follow, how closely an author follows these rules can also indicate tone.

For example, a more conversational piece might be more flexible about not ending sentences with a preposition than something intended to be formal and professional :

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  • Studying Literature

How to Analyze Tone in Literature

Last Updated: March 28, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Tristen Bonacci . Tristen Bonacci is a Licensed English Teacher with more than 20 years of experience. Tristen has taught in both the United States and overseas. She specializes in teaching in a secondary education environment and sharing wisdom with others, no matter the environment. Tristen holds a BA in English Literature from The University of Colorado and an MEd from The University of Phoenix. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 478,157 times.

In literature, tone refers to the author's attitude toward the subject, characters or events of a story. [1] X Research source Understanding the tone of a literary work can help you become a better reader. You may also need to analyze the tone of a literary work for an essay or assignment for class. To analyze tone, start by recognizing common tones in literature. Then, determine the tone in a literary work and describe it effectively so you get high marks on your essay.

Recognizing Common Tones in Literature

Step 1 Notice if the tone is solemn or gloomy.

  • A good example of a solemn or gloomy tone is in the short story “The School” by Donald Barthelme.

Step 2 Recognize a suspenseful tone.

  • A good example of a suspenseful tone is in the short story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.

Step 3 Take note of a humorous tone.

  • A good example of a humorous tone is the poem “Snowball” by Shel Silverstein.

Step 4 Notice a sarcastic tone.

  • A good example of a sarcastic tone is in the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Step 5 Recognize the connection between tone and genre.

  • For example, if a story is set in an abandoned cabin the woods, it may have a creepy or unsettling mood. The author may then have a narrator or main character who uses a gloomy or depressing tone to describe the cabin in the woods to the reader.

Determining the Tone in a Literary Work

Step 1 Notice the word choice and language.

  • For example, you may study a passage from the short story “The School:" “And the trees all died...I don't know why they died, they just died. Something wrong with the soil possibly or maybe the stuff we got from the nursery wasn't the best...All these kids looking at these little brown sticks, it was depressing.”
  • In the passage, Barthelme creates a solemn, gloomy tone by using words like “depressing,” “dead,” “died,” and “wrong.”

Step 2 Look at the sentence structure.

  • For example, in many thriller novels, the sentences are often short and to the point, with very few adjectives or adverbs. This can help to create a suspenseful tone, full of action and tension.

Step 3 Examine the imagery.

  • For example, if a person's face is described as “glowing with happiness and excitement,” this may create a joyful tone. Or if a cabin in the woods is described as “grimy with the fingerprints of the previous occupants,” this may create a suspenseful tone.

Step 4 Determine if the author uses irony.

  • For example, if someone says, “Good thing I wore my parka today” when the temperature is 85 °F (29 °C), they're using verbal irony.

Step 5 Read the work out loud.

  • For example, you may read the following lines from The Catcher in the Rye out loud to determine the tone: “God damn money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.” The use of “god damn” and “blue as hell” gives the line a sarcastic or bitter tone, with a hint of humor and sadness.

Step 6 Note that a work can have more than one tone.

  • For example, a novel may begin with a humorous tone and shift into a more serious tone as the author delves deeper into a character's history or personal relationships.

Describing the Tone in a Literary Work

Step 1 Use adjectives.

  • For example, you may write, “The author uses words like “super,” “stoked,” “awesome,” and “exhilarating” to create an upbeat tone.”
  • You can use more than one adjective if this will make your description more accurate.

Step 2 Provide evidence from the text.

  • For example, if you are writing about The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, you may use the last line of the book as an example: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
  • You can then note that the imagery of a boat going against the current as well as the use of the words “beat,” “borne,” and “past” create a solemn, nostalgic tone to the ending.

Step 3 Compare different tones in the same work.

  • Note if the tonal shifts coincide with specific characters and/or changes in perspective or viewpoint.
  • For example, you may note, “The tone shifts in Chapter 13 from a humorous tone to a more serious tone. This occurs when the narrator discusses their mother's illness and death.”

Step 4 Link the tone to other literary elements.

  • For example, you may link the nostalgic, solemn tone of the closing line in The Great Gatsby to the themes of remembrance, loss, and thwarted love in the novel.

Expert Q&A

Tristen Bonacci

You Might Also Like

Critique Literature

  • ↑ https://liberalarts.oregonstate.edu/wlf/what-tone-literature-definition-and-examples
  • ↑ https://literarydevices.net/tone/
  • ↑ http://www.inetteacher.com/upload1/102670/docs/Tone-Mood%20Worksheet.pdf
  • ↑ http://study.com/academy/lesson/tone-vs-mood-interpreting-meaning-in-prose.html
  • ↑ Tristen Bonacci. Licensed English Teacher. Expert Interview. 21 December 2021.
  • ↑ http://literarydevices.net/syntax/
  • ↑ https://literarydevices.com/irony/
  • ↑ https://www.wheaton.edu/academics/services/writing-center/writing-resources/style-diction-tone-and-voice/
  • ↑ https://www.apstudynotes.org/english/sample-essays/style-analysis-tone-of-voice-words/

About This Article

Tristen Bonacci

The tone of a piece of literature refers to the author’s attitude toward the characters, events, and subject matter of the story. The tone of a text can vary from solemn to suspenseful to humorous and lighthearted. To figure out the tone of a passage or text, look at the word choices and images the author uses. For instance, if there are lots of words associated with darkness and death, the tone’s probably quite gloomy. However, a writer can also make the piece humorous by using irony and subverting your expectations. Remember to link the tone to other elements like the plot, style, and major themes of the text to help you analyze it. For example, in The Great Gatsby, you could link the nostalgic, solemn tone of the closing line to the themes of loss, and thwarted love. For more tips from our Education co-author, including how to use sentence structure to analyze tone, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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II. Getting Started

2.3 Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content

Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; and Terri Pantuso

Now that you have determined the assignment parameters , it’s time to begin drafting. While doing so, it is important to remain focused on your topic and thesis in order to guide your reader through the essay. Imagine reading one long block of text with each idea blurring into the next. Even if you are reading a thrilling novel or an interesting news article, you will likely lose interest in what the author has to say very quickly. During the writing process, it is helpful to position yourself as a reader. Ask yourself whether you can focus easily on each point you make. Keep in mind that three main elements shape the content of each essay (see Figure 2.3.1). [1]

  • Purpose:   The reason the writer composes the essay.
  • Audience:  The individual or group whom the writer intends to address.
  • Tone: The attitude the writer conveys about the essay’s subject.

A triangle with the three points labeled Audience, Tone, and Purpose. Inside the triangle, two-headed arrows are between the three points and the word Content in the center.

The assignment’s purpose, audience, and tone dictate what each paragraph of the essay covers and how the paragraph supports the main point or thesis.

Identifying Common Academic Purposes

The purpose for a piece of writing identifies the reason you write it by, basically, answering the question “Why?” For example, why write a play? To entertain a packed theater. Why write instructions to the babysitter? To inform him or her of your schedule and rules. Why write a letter to your congressman? To persuade him to address your community’s needs.

In academic settings, the reasons for writing typically fulfill four main purposes:

  • to classify
  • to synthesize
  • to evaluate

A classification shrinks a large amount of information into only the essentials , using your own words; although shorter than the original piece of writing, a classification should still communicate all the key points and key support of the original document without quoting the original text. Keep in mind that classification moves beyond simple summary to be informative .

An analysis , on the other hand, separates complex materials into their different parts and studies how the parts relate to one another. In the sciences, for example, the analysis of simple table salt would require a deconstruction of its parts—the elements sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Then, scientists would study how the two elements interact to create the compound NaCl, or sodium chloride: simple table salt.

In an academic analysis , instead of deconstructing compounds, the essay takes apart a primary source (an essay, a book, an article, etc.) point by point. It communicates the main points of the document by examining individual points and identifying how the points relate to one another.

The third type of writing— synthesis —combines two or more items to create an entirely new item. Take, for example, the electronic musical instrument aptly named the synthesizer. It looks like a simple keyboard but displays a dashboard of switches, buttons, and levers. With the flip of a few switches, a musician may combine the distinct sounds of a piano, a flute, or a guitar—or any other combination of instruments—to create a new sound. The purpose of an academic synthesis is to blend individual documents into a new document by considering the main points from one or more pieces of writing and linking the main points together to create a new point, one not replicated in either document.

Finally, an evaluation judges the value of something and determines its worth. Evaluations in everyday life are often not only dictated by set standards but also influenced by opinion and prior knowledge such as a supervisor’s evaluation of an employee in a particular job. Academic evaluations, likewise, communicate your opinion and its justifications about a particular document or a topic of discussion. They are influenced by your reading of the document as well as your prior knowledge and experience with the topic or issue. Evaluations typically require more critical thinking and a combination of classifying , analysis , and synthesis skills.

You will encounter these four purposes not only as you read for your classes but also as you read for work or pleasure and, because reading and writing work together, your writing skills will improve as you read. Remember that the purpose for writing will guide you through each part of your paper, helping you make decisions about content and style .

When reviewing directions for assignments, look for the verbs that ask you to classify, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate. Instructors often use these words to clearly indicate the assignment’s purpose. These words will cue you on how to complete the assignment because you will know its exact purpose.

Identifying the Audience

Imagine you must give a presentation to a group of executives in an office. Weeks before the big day, you spend time creating and rehearsing the presentation. You must make important, careful decisions not only about the content but also about your delivery. Will the presentation require technology to project figures and charts? Should the presentation define important words, or will the executives already know the terms? Should you wear your suit and dress shirt? The answers to these questions will help you develop an appropriate relationship with your audience, making them more receptive to your message.

Now imagine you must explain the same business concepts from your presentation to a group of high school students. Those important questions you previously answered may now require different answers. The figures and charts may be too sophisticated, and the terms will certainly require definitions. You may even reconsider your outfit and sport a more casual look. Because the audience has shifted, your presentation and delivery will shift as well to create a new relationship with the new audience.

In these two situations, the audience —the individuals who will watch and listen to the presentation—plays a role in the development of presentation. As you prepare the presentation, you visualize the audience to anticipate their expectations and reactions. What you imagine affects the information you choose to present and how you will present it. Then, during the presentation, you meet the audience in person and discover immediately how well you perform.

Although the audience for writing assignments—your readers—may not appear in person, they play an equally vital role. Even in everyday writing activities, you identify your readers’ characteristics, interests, and expectations before making decisions about what you write. In fact, thinking about the audience has become so common that you may not even detect the audience-driven decisions. For example, you update your status on a social networking site with the awareness of who will digitally follow the post. If you want to brag about a good grade, you may write the post to please family members. If you want to describe a funny moment, you may write with your friends’ senses of humor in mind. Even at work, you send emails with an awareness of an unintended receiver who could intercept the message.

In other words, being aware of “invisible” readers is a skill you most likely already possess and one you rely on every day. Consider the following paragraphs. Which one would the author send to her parents? Which one would she send to her best friend?

Last Saturday, I volunteered at a local hospital. The visit was fun and rewarding. I even learned how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Unfortunately, I think I caught a cold from one of the patients. This week, I will rest in bed and drink plenty of clear fluids. I hope I am well by next Saturday to volunteer again.

OMG! You won’t believe this! My advisor forced me to do my community service hours at this hospital all weekend! We learned CPR but we did it on dummies, not even real peeps. And some kid sneezed on me and got me sick! I was so bored and sniffling all weekend; I hope I don’t have to go back next week. I def do NOT want to miss the basketball tournament!

Most likely, you matched each paragraph to its intended audience with little hesitation. Because each paragraph reveals the author’s relationship with the intended readers, you can identify the audience fairly quickly. When writing your own essays, you must engage with your audience to build an appropriate relationship given your subject.

Imagining your readers during each stage of the writing process will help you make decisions about your writing. Ultimately, the people you visualize will affect what and how you write.

While giving a speech, you may articulate an inspiring or critical message, but if you left your hair a mess and laced up mismatched shoes, your audience might not take you seriously. They may be too distracted by your appearance to listen to your words.

Similarly, grammar and sentence structure serve as the appearance of a piece of writing. Polishing your work using correct grammar will impress your readers and allow them to focus on what you have to say.

Because focusing on your intended audience will enhance your writing, your process, and your finished product, you must consider the specific traits of your audience members. Use your imagination to anticipate the readers’ demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations.

Demographics

These measure important data about a group of people such as their age range, their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, or their gender. Certain topics and assignments will require these kinds of considerations about your audience. For other topics and assignments, these measurements may not influence your writing in the end. Regardless, it is important to consider demographics when you begin to think about your purpose for writing.

Education considers the audience’s level of schooling. If audience members have earned a doctorate degree, for example, you may need to elevate your style and use more formal language. Or, if audience members are still in college, you could write in a more relaxed style. An audience member’s major or emphasis may also dictate your writing.

Prior Knowledge

This refers to what the audience already knows about your topic. If your readers have studied certain topics, they may already know some terms and concepts related to the topic. You may decide whether to define terms and explain concepts based on your audience’s prior knowledge. Although you cannot peer inside the brains of your readers to discover their knowledge, you can make reasonable assumptions . For instance, a nursing major would presumably know more about health-related topics than a business major would.

Expectations

These indicate what readers will look for while reading your assignment. Readers may expect consistencies in the assignment’s appearance such as correct grammar and traditional formatting like double-spaced lines and legible font. Readers may also have content-based expectations given the assignment’s purpose and organization. In an essay titled “The Economics of Enlightenment: The Effects of Rising Tuition,” for example, audience members may expect to read about the economic repercussions of college tuition costs.

Selecting an Appropriate Tone

Tone identifies a speaker’s attitude toward a subject or another person. You may pick up a person’s tone of voice fairly easily in conversation. A friend who tells you about her weekend may speak excitedly about a fun skiing trip. An instructor who means business may speak in a low, slow voice to emphasize her serious mood. Or, a coworker who needs to let off some steam after a long meeting may crack a sarcastic joke.

Just as speakers transmit emotion through voice, writers can transmit a range of attitudes and emotions through prose –from excited and humorous to somber and critical. These emotions create connections among the audience, the author, and the subject, ultimately building a relationship between the audience and the text. To stimulate these connections, writers convey their attitudes and feelings with useful devices such as sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and formal or informal language. Keep in mind that the writer’s attitude should always appropriately match the audience and the purpose.

Read the following paragraph and consider the writer’s tone. How would you describe the writer’s attitude toward wildlife conservation?

“Many species of plants and animals are disappearing right before our eyes. If we don’t act fast, it might be too late to save them. Human activities, including pollution, deforestation, hunting, and overpopulation, are devastating the natural environment. Without our help, many species will not survive long enough for our children to see them in the wild. Take the tiger, for example. Today, tigers occupy just seven percent of their historical range, and many local populations are already extinct. Hunted for their beautiful pelts and other body parts, the tiger population has plummeted from one hundred thousand in 1920 to just a few thousand. Contact your local wildlife conservation society today to find out how you can stop this terrible destruction.”

Choosing Appropriate, Interesting Content

Content refers to all the written substance in a document. After selecting an audience and a purpose, you must choose what information will make it to the page. Content may consist of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes , testimonies , and observations, but no matter the type, the information must be appropriate and interesting for the audience and purpose. An essay written for third graders that summarizes the legislative process, for example, would have to contain succinct and simple content.

Content is also shaped by tone . When the tone matches the content, the audience will be more engaged, and you will build a stronger relationship with your readers. When applied to that audience of third graders, you would choose simple content that the audience would easily understand, and you would express that content through an enthusiastic tone.

The same considerations apply to all audiences and purposes.

This section contains material from:

Crowther, Kathryn, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson. Successful College Composition . 2nd edition. Book 8. Georgia: English Open Textbooks, 2016. http://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8 . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .

  • “The Rhetorical Triangle” was derived by Brandi Gomez from an image in: Kathryn Crowther et al., Successful College Composition, 2nd ed. Book 8. (Georgia: English Open Textbooks, 2016), https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License . ↵

The bounds, limits, or confines of something.

A statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes an argument that will later be explained, expanded upon, and developed in a longer essay or research paper. In undergraduate writing, a thesis statement is often found in the introductory paragraph of an essay. The plural of thesis is theses .

The essence of something; those things that compose the foundational elements of a thing; the basics.

A brief and concise statement or series of statements that outlines the main point(s) of a longer work. To summarize is to create a brief and concise statement or series of statements that outlines the main point(s) of a longer work.

To give or relay information; explanatory.

The fusion, combination, or integration of two or more ideas or objects that create new ideas or objects.

To copy, duplicate, or reproduce.

To organize or arrange.

The process of critically examining, investigating, or interpreting a specific topic or subject matter in order to come to an original conclusion.

The subject matter; the information contained within a text; the configuration of ideas that make up an argument.

The choices that a writer makes in order to make their argument or express their ideas; putting different elements of writing together in order to present an argument. Style refers to the way an argument is framed, written, and presented.

To interrupt, stop, or prevent someone or something from coming to pass or getting from one place to the other.

Clear or lucid speech; the expression of an idea in a coherent or logical manner; the communication of a concept in a way that is easily understandable to an audience.

The person or group of people who view and analyze the work of a writer, researcher, or other content creator.

Qualities, features, or attributes relating to something, particularly personal characteristics.

Taking something for granted; an expected result; to be predisposed towards a certain outcome.

Consequences; the impact, usually negative, of an action or event.

Writing that is produced in sentence form; the opposite of poetry, verse, or song. Some of the most common types of prose include research papers, essays, articles, novels, and short stories.

A short account or telling of an incident or story, either personal or historical; anecdotal evidence is frequently found in the form of a personal experience rather than objective data or widespread occurrence.

Verbal or written proof from an individual; the statement made by a witness that is understood to be truth. Testimony can be a formal process, such as a testimony made in official court proceedings, or an informal process, such as claiming that a company’s product or service works.

To express an idea in as few words as possible; concise, brief, or to the point.

The feeling or attitude of the writer which can be inferred by the reader, usually conveyed through vocabulary, word choice, and phrasing; associated with emotion.

2.3 Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content Copyright © 2022 by Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; and Terri Pantuso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

The Writing Center of Princeton

AP English: The Essential Guide to Tone and Tone Words

At a recent AP English exam grading session, the head reader made special note of one aspect of AP instruction which she felt needed addressing. “Teachers should teach tone, always asking students to show how it is achieved and how it contributes to a work’s overall effect.”

Because most AP English exam essay questions concern or require an understanding of the tone (or attitude) of the writer in order to be answered correctly, learning to identify tone and to write about tone is essential to your success on the AP English exam.

In a written composition, tone refers to the attitude of the writer toward a subject or audience.

What is tone.

Tone refers to the writer’s attitude toward her topic/subject. To a great extent, your understanding of tone depends on your ability to make inferences from the work being read.

Tone is one of the first things humans learn to recognize and respond to in communication. Think of tone as “tone of voice.” In speech, identifying tone is usually pretty easy; after all, we’ve been working to fine tune our tone reading skills since we were young. For example, as toddlers, we may not have understood the words “Don’t put your finger in that outlet!” but we certainly understood the attitude conveyed.

Identifying tone in literature is more difficult. As readers, we don’t have access to the modulations of pitch and intensity that we do when we are listening to someone speak. Rather, tone is conveyed solely through the words on the page. Look at this attempt at tone: “I’m looking forward to writing my college application essays.” Really? It’s hard to tell. Maybe the writer does, but maybe she is being sarcastic; it’s hard to tell from this sentence. Now read this version of the sentence: “I’m looking forward to writing my college application essays only slightly more than I looked forward to having my wisdom teeth pulled.” While my example might not be the most creative, the second sentence clearly indicates to the reader that the writer intends her words to be read sarcastically.

how to determine the tone of an essay

The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey

How to Determine the Tone of an Essay

How to Set Up a Rhetorical Analysis

How to Set Up a Rhetorical Analysis

Tone in an essay is similar to the tone in a conversation. When conversing, you adopt different tones and speaking styles depending on the context in which you are speaking and on the person who you are speaking to. In the same way, a writer chooses a tone that is suitable to the topic of the essay and to the audience for whom he is writing. Tone sets the stage for the thoughts and ideas that are presented in an essay. It also reveals the writer's attitude about the topic.

Consider the context and situation the essay addresses. Essays are written for a variety of purposes. The goal of the essay may be to commemorate an important event, to honor a particular person's achievement, to motivate a particular group or to address a political or social issue. A light-hearted tone may work well in one context, but it may be inappropriate or offensive in a different setting.

Write for the audience. It is important to keep the particular audience in mind as this affects the tone of the essay. For example, the appropriate tone for a political essay depends upon the group being addressed. One group may respond better to political sarcasm and humor, whereas another group may be more receptive to a formal, serious tone.

Select a writing style appropriate to the subject matter. A formal writing style is generally impersonal and objective. An informal style tends to be subjective and personal, causal and plainspoken. If the subject matter is academic or somber, a serious and formal tone is appropriate. If the essay topic is celebratory, a festive, joyous and informal tone is more suitable.

  • Remember to choose a tone that is true to yourself. A well written essay presents the author's point of view in a unique and insightful way. One essayist may have the ability to offer words of comfort in a somber situation with a well placed light-hearted remark. A different essayist who attempts to do the same may come across as contrived and insincere.

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Robert Russell began writing online professionally in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. in philosophy and is currently working on a book project exploring the relationship between art, entertainment and culture. He is the guitar player for the nationally touring cajun/zydeco band Creole Stomp. Russell travels with his laptop and writes many of his articles on the road between gigs.

how to determine the tone of an essay

Tone Definition

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

Tone Explained

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.

Tone Examples

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.

The printed PDF version of the LitCharts literary term guide on Tone

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  • Colloquialism
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  • Bildungsroman
  • Antimetabole
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  • Onomatopoeia
  • Point of View
  • Red Herring

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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.

Word Choice

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

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:

  • acknowledge
  • accidentally
  • acknowledgment
  • independence
  • indispensable
  • insufficient
  • maintenance
  • opportunity
  • perseverance
  • specifically
  • temperament

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.

Gender Bias

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.

Sentence Order

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.

Old-before-new

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.

Short-to-long

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.

Paragraph-level coherence

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.

Text-level coherence

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.

Nominalization

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 Copyright © 2020 by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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The ultimate guide to different types of tone in writing

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A book open to a page that transitions from black and white to colorful, representing different tones in writing.

Introduction to Different Types of Tone in Writing

Have you ever read a text and felt an instant connection? Or maybe you’ve felt irritated, amused, or even inspired? Well, that's the magic of tone in writing. Imagine tone as the secret sauce that gives flavor to words - it can turn bland into spicy, sweet, or sour depending on what the writer wants you to taste.

Tone , by definition, refers to the attitude or personality expressed by an author in their writing. It's not about what you say but how you say it. From formal and professional to casual and playful, tones can vary as widely as the spectrum of human emotions.

Why is tone so important in writing?

Well, think of it this way. If your words were a melody, then tone would be the rhythm giving it life and making it dance off the page. It's what enables readers to feel your words rather than just read them. It evokes emotions, creates imagery, and builds a bridge between the reader's mind and the writer's intent.

Now let's tie tone to brand voice . Ever noticed how some brands feel like an old friend while others feel more like a polished professional or a witty companion? That’s brand voice at play – and tone is its right hand. The tone helps shape brand voice, giving it an emotional layer that resonates with readers. Brand voice might be what your brand says , but tone is how it says it.

Let’s take Apple for instance. Apple’s brand voice is innovative and forward-thinking but its tone? That’s where the magic lies - minimalistic yet powerful, simple yet profound. Or consider Old Spice - their brand voice is humorous and irreverent with a tone that's over-the-top and outrageous.

Apple’s Ad for Iphone 13

So now that we've defined what tone is and why it matters, let's dive into exploring different types of tone in writing!

There are countless tones a writer can use - each with its unique characteristics and effects. Like artists with their palette of colors, writers mix and match tones to create engaging narratives.

In literature, we often see descriptive tones like optimistic or gloomy used to set the mood for stories. In business writing, tones range from professional and authoritative to friendly and conversational based on the target audience’s expectations.

Ever read content from Buzzfeed ? Their tone is casual with a sprinkle of humor making their content feel as light as a friendly chat over coffee. Conversely, The New Yorker adopts a more serious, intellectual tone painting a picture of sophistication.

As we journey through this guide together (yeah we're just getting started!), we'll delve deeper into these different types of tones - exploring their characteristics, usage contexts and providing real-life examples from prominent brands or literature along the way!

So buckle up word-nerds! Let’s dive into this adventure through the world of tones where every word comes alive with emotion!

Understanding Tone and Voice

When we dive into the realm of writing, tone and voice emerge as two inseparable companions. They shape the personality of your content and give it a distinctive character. Imagine tone as the mood you set, the vibe you give off. It's like the music playing in the background of your favorite cafe - it can be soothing or lively, subtle or dramatic. On the other hand, voice is your unique style, your signature tune. It's what makes you recognizable in a crowd; it's your brand personality etched onto paper.

Exploring Different Types of Tone

As with music, there are different genres (or in our case, tones) available to us writers. Let's embark on a journey through some of these fascinating tones.

1. Formal Tone

Just as the name implies, a formal tone is akin to a black-tie event in writing. It's crisp, clean, and carries an air of authority and professionalism. This tone is the tailored suit of language - impeccably ironed, not a hair out of place.

In essence, the formal tone is like a lawyer eloquently presenting a case in court or a scientist meticulously explaining complex research findings. It's all about precision, clarity, and attention to detail!

Where Do We Use Formal Tone?

Formal tone is typically employed in:

  • Academic Papers : These documents are steeped in research and fact-based discussions. They demand a high degree of accuracy and formality.
  • Legal Documents : Contracts, court rulings, legal briefs - these all necessitate a formal tone due to their serious nature.
  • Formal Business Communications : Whether it's a detailed business proposal or an official company report, a formal tone ensures credibility and professionalism.

To truly understand how this tone works, let's look at an example:

Consider this sentence - "The results obtained from the experiment unequivocally demonstrate the efficacy of our approach."

Notice how it reflects confidence and assertiveness without being overly verbose or complex. This statement doesn't beat around the bush; it gets straight to the point but does so in a polished and professional manner. That’s what gives it its formal 'flair'.

So when you're aiming for an authoritative voice that commands respect while maintaining clarity, go for the formal tone. It's your trusty companion for delivering critical information with precision and poise!

2. The Informal Tone

Picture this: it's casual Friday at your workplace. You’re in your favorite pair of jeans, a comfy tee, and sneakers. Now, if you were to translate how you're feeling into words, that's precisely the essence of an informal tone ! This tone is all about being relaxed, friendly, and conversational.

When Should You Use an Informal Tone?

Informal tone often finds its place in contexts where formality isn't necessary or even discouraged. Here are some typical scenarios:

  • Blogs and Personal Narratives : If you're sharing your personal experiences or thoughts, an informal tone helps your readers connect with you on a deeper level.
  • Personal Emails and Text Messages : Whether it's a chatty email to a colleague or a text message to your friend, an informal tone adds warmth to your words.
  • Social Media Posts : On platforms like Twitter or Instagram, an informal tone can make your posts more engaging and relatable.

Now that we've covered the 'where,' let's dive into the 'how.' Creating an informal tone isn't just about using slang or emojis (though they could help!). It's about creating an authentic voice that resonates with your reader. Here are three quick tips:

  • Speak Directly: Use pronouns like 'I', 'you', 'we' to establish a direct connection with your readers.
  • Be Conversational: Write as if you're talking to a friend - use everyday language and expressions.
  • Show Personality: Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through! Humor, anecdotes, personal beliefs - these all add flavor to your writing.
Example : "Our new process totally rocked it in our latest tests!"

Notice how this sentence feels like someone's talking to you? It conveys excitement and enthusiasm in a simple yet effective way. It doesn't just tell you that the new process was successful; it makes you feel the success!

So next time when you're writing something that doesn't require a formal hat - let loose and embrace the fun of an informal tone . After all, who doesn't enjoy a good chat over coffee?

3. Persuasive Tone

When we talk about wielding the power of words, a persuasive tone takes center stage. It's not just about dishing out information or sharing an idea; it's about winning hearts and changing minds. This tone is the trusted sidekick of advertisements, opinion pieces, rousing speeches, and any written or spoken content that has a mission to sway its audience towards a specific viewpoint or action.

Example : "Join us! Embrace our services - we guarantee it will be the breakthrough you've been waiting for in your business!"

Characteristics of Persuasive Tone

So what gives a persuasive tone its compelling charm? Let's unravel the magic with some key elements:

  • Undeniable Clarity : Your position needs to be crystal clear from the start. If there is ambiguity in your stance, how can you expect your audience to follow you?
  • Powerful Arguments : Stating your position isn't enough; fortify it with robust arguments. Every contention should reinforce your main point like a solid brick in a wall.
  • Emotional Connection : While rational arguments form the backbone, emotional appeals are the soul of persuasive writing. Strike a chord with your audience!
  • Straightforward Language : No room for vagueness here – use clear, concise language and get straight to the point.

Let's dissect our previous example to see these elements in play:

"Join us! Embrace our services - we guarantee it will be the breakthrough you've been waiting for in your business!"
  • Undeniable Clarity : The writer's stance is unambiguous - they want you to embrace their services.
  • Powerful Argument : They're not simply inviting you to join; they're assuring that this step will bring a significant breakthrough for your business.
  • Emotional Connection : By using terms like "breakthrough" and "you've been waiting for", they're tapping into your aspirations and sense of anticipation.
  • Straightforward Language : The appeal is direct and straightforward – join them and embrace their services.

At its essence, persuasion is all about grasping what makes your audience tick and framing your idea as the perfect fit for their needs. So go ahead, don those persuasive boots and prepare to make an impact!

4. Inspirational Tone

An inspirational tone may sound like the work of magicians or miracle workers. But here's the secret - it's not! It's just about choosing the right words and delivering them in a way that makes people sit up, take notice, and feel ready to conquer their world. This type of tone aims to uplift and ignite a spark within readers. You'll often find it weaving its magic in self-help books, motivational speeches, or even those Instagram posts that make you say, " Yes, I can do this! "

Let's look at an example:

Example : " Believe in your dreams—they have amazing power. "

Now, why does this work? Let's break down the anatomy of an inspiring tone:

  • Positivity : Inspirational writing is all about positivity. It sees the glass as half full and encourages others to do the same. In our example, the focus is on believing in one's dreams—a positive and empowering message.
  • Imagery : Good inspirational writing often uses evocative imagery. Our dreams are described as having "amazing power"—a strong image that captures imagination.
  • Personal Connection : The best inspirational messages feel personal. They strike a chord and make readers feel understood and valued. By talking about 'your dreams,' our example feels intimate and personal.
  • Motivation : The aim is to motivate, to provoke action. Here, the call-to-action is implied: if you believe in your dreams, they can become powerful forces in your life.

Remember, an inspirational tone isn't just about making people feel good—it's about motivating them to take action towards becoming better versions of themselves. The next time you're tasked with crafting an inspirational message, keep these elements in mind...and watch the magic happen!

5. Conversational Tone

Welcome to the land where words feel like a warm handshake and sentences sound like an old friend . Yes, we've hit the bullseye, we're talking about the one and only — the conversational tone! This tone is like your favourite pair of worn-in jeans—it's comfortable, trustworthy, and just fits like a glove.

A conversational tone is the chameleon of writing styles. It adapts to mimic everyday speech and sounds as natural as breathing. It's informal yet captivating, direct yet engaging—it's as if the writer has magically teleported into your living room, casually sharing their riveting thoughts over a steaming cup of coffee.

This friendly tone is a social butterfly—you'll often find it fluttering around in social media posts, prancing about in blog articles, or even cozying up in email newsletters. When you come across content that gives you a friendly nudge saying: "Hey there! Pull up a comfy chair and let's have a heart-to-heart," you know you've stumbled upon a piece written in the conversational tone.

Why Use A Conversational Tone?

Using this tone can make your content feel more human and approachable. It breaks down the daunting walls between the writer and the reader, building instead an invisible bridge of connection and camaraderie. People are naturally drawn to authenticity—using this tone can make your audience feel seen, heard, and valued.

Unmasking Elements of a Conversational Tone

  • Informality : Think comfy slippers for words—no need for starched language or perplexing jargon here. Simplicity is your secret weapon.
  • Directness : Speaking directly to readers is like giving them a backstage pass—they feel involved, important, and valued.
  • Engagement : Throwing in questions, sprinkling anecdotes here and there, or adding a dash of humour can keep readers hooked like bees to honey.
Example : "Hey folks! Buckle up because we've got some electrifying news to share."

So next time you're poised with pen in hand (or fingers on keyboards) drafting that next social media post or blog article, consider donning the conversational tone. It might just be that secret ingredient that transforms your content from 'meh' to 'must-read!'

6. Humorous/Sarcastic Tone

Writing is an art form, and like any artist, a writer has an array of tools at their disposal. One such tool that can add an unexpected pop of flavor to your content is the Humorous/Sarcastic tone. This tone, as the name suggests, enables you to entertain your readers, tickle their funny bones, and keep them coming back for more.

Humor and sarcasm are the jalapenos and chili flakes of writing—adding just the right kick to make your content sizzle. But remember, these spicy elements need to be used judiciously. Going overboard with them can overpower your message and leave a bad taste in your reader's mouth.

Also, humor is highly subjective—it's like a joke where one person might be rolling on the floor laughing while another might not even crack a smile. Hence, using humor and sarcasm requires a delicate balance and an understanding of your audience's taste buds.

The Recipe for a Perfectly Baked Humorous/Sarcastic Tone:

  • Unpredictability : Keep your readers on their toes! Add unexpected twists and turns. Like adding a surprise ingredient to a classic recipe, it can make all the difference.
  • Exaggeration : Don't be afraid to stretch reality or play around with absurd situations. Go ahead, let your imagination run wild—it could lead to some seriously hilarious scenarios.
  • Wordplay : Puns, rhymes, or unexpected associations between words can create comedic gold. They're like the icing on a cake—adding sweetness and fun!
Example : "Our product guarantees 100% satisfaction...unless you happen to be our competitors!"

In this example, the speaker uses exaggeration ("100% satisfaction") combined with unpredictability (including competitors as unsatisfied customers) to paint their product in a humorous light. The result? A sarcastically toned statement that achieves its goal of grabbing attention—and possibly inducing laughter.

Writing that promotional content or drafting that email? Don't forget to sprinkle some humor or sarcasm into it. They could be just what you need to make your content stand out in the vast sea of seriousness that floods our inboxes every day!

But remember—the key is restraint. Too much spice can ruin the dish! When used moderately though, these tones can transform your content from 'just another post' to 'can't wait for the next one!' So go ahead, add some zing to your writing—a dash of humor or pinch of sarcacism might just be the secret sauce you've been looking for!

7. Descriptive Tone

Ever heard of the phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" Well, in the land of content writing, we have something called the Descriptive Tone . It's like painting with words, layering detail upon detail to create an evocative image or scene. This tone is commonly used in fiction or travel writing and has the power to transport the reader to an entirely different world, all through the magic of well-chosen words.

“The descriptive tone is the artist's brush for writers. It paints vivid pictures using only words.”

Here's how it works:

1. Detail-Oriented Description

It focuses on the smallest of details—the rustle of leaves underfoot, the aroma wafting from a bakery nearby, or even the intricate patterns on a butterfly's wings. Every detail counts in setting the stage and immersing readers in your narrative.

2. Sensory Language

The descriptive tone calls upon all five senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch—to bring a scene to life. For example, describing not just what a forest looks like but also how its damp earth smells or how its peace sounds.

3. Emotive Vocabulary

This tone utilizes emotive vocabulary to resonate with readers on a deeper level. The goal here is not just to describe but also evoke specific emotions within your audience.

Now, let's see this tone in action:

Example : "As twilight descended, the sunset painted the sky with hues of gold and purple—an artist's masterpiece for all to see. The murmuring waves gently caressed the sandy shore while seagulls danced in the cooling breeze. Each grain of sand underfoot held stories of timeless tides as whispers of sea salt hung in the air."

With such detailed imagery and sensory language, it's as if you're right there on that beach, isn't it? That's precisely what makes this tone so magical!

So next time you're writing a piece—be it a travel blog or fantasy novel—don't shy away from exploring this paintbrush of words. Remember: With each vivid detail you weave into your narrative, you're not just telling your story; you're inviting readers to live it with you.

8. Didactic Tone

In the vast universe of language and communication, there's a particular tone that stands as a beacon for those seeking knowledge and understanding. This tone is didactic in nature—educational and info-packed, with a clear purpose to teach or instruct.

This is the tone you'd typically find in textbooks, how-to articles, educational videos, or even DIY blogs. It's the voice of authority that guides you, step by step, through complex processes and unfamiliar terrains.

Characteristics of the Didactic Tone

  • Informative: The primary goal is to provide information or knowledge. Its purpose isn't just to entertain but more importantly, to educate.
  • Clear and Direct: No beating around the bush here. This tone gets straight to the point.
  • Instructional: It often includes steps or guidelines for readers to follow.

And it sounds something like this:

Example: "Follow these steps carefully to assemble your furniture."

Now, let's take a closer look at this example. It's direct and instructional, providing clear instructions for readers to follow. The use of "carefully" adds an element of caution, underlining the importance of precision in following the instructions.

The Magic of Didactic Tone

The didactic tone can be quite magical when used effectively—it breaks down complex information into digestible chunks without diluting the essence. Here's an example:

Example: "To capture a stunning sunrise photo, begin by finding an unobstructed view. Next, set your camera on a tripod to prevent blurring from shaky hands. Adjust your camera settings—lowering your ISO to reduce noise and increasing your aperture for a broader depth of field. Finally, wait patiently for that perfect moment when the sun kisses the horizon."

This instruction isn't just informative but also paints a vivid picture, making it easier for readers to visualize each step.

So next time you're tasked with explaining how to bake a cake or build a rocket ship (who knows?), remember—the didactic tone is your trusty guide! Just maintain clarity, be direct, don’t forget those crucial steps or guidelines...and watch as your words light up the path of learning for your readers!

9. Emotional Tone

The emotional tone is a powerful aspect of writing that can effortlessly tap into the reader's feelings. It's not just about telling a story, but about sharing an emotional journey. This tone is like a paintbrush that colors your words with shades of joy, sorrow, anger, excitement, love, hate...you name it! In essence, the spectrum of emotional tone is as broad and diverse as human emotions themselves.

Emotional tone is especially effective in personal narratives, opinion pieces, or any form of writing where the writer's emotions take center stage. The key lies in making the readers not just understand but feel what you're expressing.

An Exploration Through Example

Let's delve deeper and dissect an example to understand this concept better:

Example : "A tidal wave of relief flooded through me, soaking each nerve ending with reassurance and calmness when I finally found my lost puppy."

In this sentence, the writer doesn't simply inform the reader about their relief upon finding their lost pet. Instead, they artistically use language to make the reader experience their intense relief and overwhelming calmness. This sensory journey is precisely what sets emotional tone apart—it invites readers to step into the writer's shoes and experience emotions first-hand.

Mixing Tones: The Secret Recipe for Captivating Narratives

Here comes an intriguing nugget! Just like how a skilled chef blends various ingredients to whip up a delectable gourmet dish, you too can blend different tones to weave together a compelling narrative.

  • An informative tone can provide necessary background information.
  • A persuasive tone could potentially sway your audience towards your point of view.
  • An emotional tone lets your readers connect on a deeper level by invoking powerful emotions.

The art lies in knowing when and where to mix these tones for maximum impact. So next time you pick up your writing quill, remember this secret recipe! After all, variety is indeed the spice of life…and also writing!

10. Assertive Tone

We've all heard the phrase "It's not what you say, it's how you say it". Well, that's precisely where the assertive tone comes into play. This tone is like a firm handshake—it communicates strength, confidence, and credibility without being overly aggressive or intimidating.

How Brands Use an Assertive Tone

In the corporate world, an assertive tone can be a game-changer. Let's take a look at some examples:

  • Nike with its iconic slogan "Just Do It" . This is assertiveness encapsulated in three words. It’s simple, direct and most importantly, it demands action.
  • Adidas , on the other hand, uses an assertive tone differently with "Impossible is Nothing" . This statement challenges the audience, asserting that no goal is out of reach.

Both brands use an assertive tone effectively to motivate their customers towards action.

"An assertive tone can inspire your audience to move mountains!"

The Key Ingredients of an Assertive Tone

Creating an assertive tone isn't about being forceful or domineering. It's about striking the right balance. Here are some key elements:

  • Clarity : Be clear and concise with your message.
  • Confidence : Believe in what you're saying.
  • Respect : Respect your audience's intelligence and viewpoints.
  • Controlled Emotion : Don't let emotions overpower your message.

Remember, an assertive tone should empower and inspire your audience—it should not leave them feeling overwhelmed or bulldozed!

Blending Assertiveness: A Delicate Art

While a purely assertive tone can be impactful, blending it with other tones can create more dynamic narratives:

  • Mix it with an informative tone for persuasive arguments.
  • Combine it with a persuasive tone to drive action.
  • Blend it with an emotional tone for more empathetic communication.

The trick lies in knowing when to dial up or down the level of assertiveness for maximum impact.

So next time you pick up that writing quill, remember the power of an assertive tone. It might just be the secret ingredient to making your narrative more compelling!

11. Optimistic Tone

Just as a superhero uses optimism to fuel their resilience against the odds, brands can employ an optimistic tone to inspire positivity and hope among their audience. It's the voice that says, "We got this!" even when the going gets tough.

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement." - Helen Keller

The Power of Positivity

An optimistic tone is more than just a cheerful disposition—it's a powerful tool that can:

  • Boost morale : An optimistic tone can uplift spirits and foster a positive environment, encouraging your audience to hold onto hope and keep pushing forward.
  • Inspire action : A brand that radiates positivity is likely to inspire its audience to take positive action—whether it’s trying a new product, signing up for a service, or becoming part of a movement.
  • Build trust : Optimism breeds confidence. When you show your audience that you believe in better days ahead, they're more likely to trust you and your brand.

Brands That Shine with Optimism

Consider Coca-Cola's iconic slogan: "Open Happiness". The beverage giant employs an optimistic tone that promises not just a refreshing drink, but also a moment of joy. Or take Dove with its "Real Beauty" campaign—its optimistic voice encourages women worldwide to embrace their unique beauty.

Striking the Right Note with Optimism

While an overly optimistic tone may risk sounding naive or out of touch with reality, balancing it with realism can create an authentic and relatable narrative. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it real : Blend optimism with honesty and authenticity. Acknowledge challenges while also emphasizing possibilities for improvement.
  • Positivity with purpose : Don't use optimism just for the sake of it—make sure it serves your brand's message and mission.
  • Emotionally aware : Understand your audience's feelings and empathize with them before painting a rosy picture.

Incorporate an optimistic tone wisely into your narrative, and you'll not only brighten your brand voice but also illuminate the path for your audience towards positivity and progress!

Tone In The Branding World

In the world of branding, tone is no less than a superhero—it gives brands a distinct voice and personality. Let's see how some well-known brands wield this superpower:

  • Apple strikes a chord with its audience by using an inspirational yet conversational tone: "Think Different" . This slogan not only inspires innovation but also invites conversation about creativity and individuality.
  • Lego , the beloved toy brand, adopts an informal yet persuasive tone: "Build the Future" . It subtly persuades children (and adults!) to unleash their imagination through building blocks.
  • Luxury car brand Rolls Royce exudes elegance through a formal and descriptive tone: "Strive for perfection in everything you do." It perfectly mirrors their commitment to craftsmanship and excellence.

The next time you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), remember that your choice of tone can transform your words into anything—from a soothing lullaby that puts minds at ease, to an energetic rock anthem that gets hearts racing! Now let’s delve deeper into how we can seamlessly transition between these tones without losing our unique brand voice.

Transitioning Between Tones for Effective Communication

A symphony is no random assortment of notes. Instead, it's a harmonious composition that dances between varying tones to create a captivating experience for the listener. Imagine your brand's voice as that symphony. The tone you use in your writing? Those are the individual notes.

Tone and voice may seem like twins at first glance, but they're more like close siblings. They coexist, complement each other, but they aren't the same. While brand voice is the consistent personality that represents your brand across all platforms, tone is the subtle flavor that changes based on context.

Think about it this way:

You are always you (voice), but you express yourself differently when giving a keynote speech at a conference (formal tone) or cracking jokes with friends over dinner (humorous tone).

Why Is Adapting Tone Crucial? Our Two Cents on the Matter

The capacity to switch up the tone based on context isn't solely a neat party trick reserved for novelists and poets; it's an absolute must-have in effective brand communication. Here's the deal: your audience isn't a passive, lifeless entity— they're vibrant, brimming with varied emotions, ever-changing needs, and a diverse range of expectations. Therefore, your brand's tone should be a reflection of this dynamism.

Need to sell your latest product? A persuasive tone might be just what you need to get those orders rolling in. Sharing success stories or customer testimonials? Switch over to an inspirational tone to pull at those heartstrings.

But wait! While the tone dances around, the underlying brand voice must stay firm and consistent. Think about it like this: it’s akin to swapping outfits—you change clothes depending on the occasion, but hey, you’re still you .

In today's digital world where AI-generated content is everywhere, adapting tone can add a human touch to your content . It can help your brand stand out amidst the monotony of machine-generated language, as it reflects empathy and understanding towards diverse audience emotions and needs.

Brands That Have Nailed The Tone Tango

Now that we've got the theory out of the way, let's dive headfirst into some real-world examples of brands that have mastered the art of transitioning between tones while keeping their brand voice rock solid.

  • Nike: Nike is a pro at maintaining an inspirational and empowering brand voice across all their communication channels. But here's where they really shine—they smoothly transition between tones depending on the situation—adopting an emotional tone when sharing athlete stories and switching gears to a persuasive tone during product launches.
  • Old Spice: Ever heard of Old Spice? Of course, you have! Known for its humorous and quirky voice, Old Spice is a textbook example of tonal transition done right! They use a sarcastic tone in their commercials (keeping viewers entertained) while adopting an informative yet casual tone on their product descriptions and social media posts.

Navigating The Seas of Tone: Strategies for Maintaining Brand Voice While Changing Tones

Shifting between tones without letting your brand voice waver can feel like navigating choppy seas without a compass. Fear not! We've rounded up some strategies to help you sail through this challenge:

  • Know Your Audience: Get into your audience's shoes—understanding their needs, expectations and preferences is vital for choosing the right tone for each context.
  • Be Mindful of Context: The platform matters! Whether it's an email newsletter or a social media blast—consider the platform and its purpose before deciding on the tone.
  • Stay True to Your Brand Personality: Amidst all these tonal changes, never lose sight of your unique brand personality—it should serve as a lighthouse amidst the fluctuating tides of tone.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Don't be afraid to experiment with various tones in your writing—gather feedback from your audience and refine your approach accordingly. Remember, improvement is a journey!

Alright! So dancing between tones doesn’t have to be like walking on eggshells if you keep your eyes locked onto your unwavering brand personality while acknowledging the rhythm of each unique context!

Enhancing Your Writing with Effective Tone

Have you ever considered how the tone of your writing affects the way readers perceive your story? It's a subtle art, like a soft melody playing in the background. It sets the mood, evokes emotions, and guides readers through the narrative. Tone is that secret ingredient that adds depth and dimension to your writing.

The Role of Tone in Storytelling

Tone in storytelling isn't just about what you say; it's about how you say it. It's about capturing feelings, creating atmosphere, and painting vivid images in readers' minds. Tone gives life to characters, adds texture to settings, and brings plots to life.

Take Harry Potter for instance. J.K Rowling’s use of an enchanting and mysterious tone creates a magical world that draws us in. We feel Harry’s wonder as he explores Hogwarts, his fear when he faces Voldemort, and his bravery as he battles evil. The tone dictates our emotional journey through the series.

Techniques for Conveying Tone Through Descriptions

To convey tone effectively through descriptions, consider these techniques:

  • Choice of Words: The words you choose to use can significantly impact the tone of your narrative. For instance, describing a setting as "gloomy" instead of merely "dimly lit" sets a more somber and melancholic tone. On the other hand, using words like "bright" and "sparkling" can create a cheerful and optimistic ambiance. It's important to note that even synonyms can have different connotations that subtly shape the mood of your story.
  • Sentence Structure: The structure of your sentences can also influence the tone. Longer sentences often create a relaxed or contemplative tone, as they allow readers to leisurely absorb the details and implications of what is being described. In contrast, shorter sentences can induce feelings of tension or urgency, which is especially useful in action scenes or climactic moments.
  • Imagery: Employing vivid imagery is another effective technique for setting the tone. By appealing to readers' senses, you can make them feel as though they are part of the scene themselves. The rustling of leaves in an eerie silence, the tangy scent of sea air - such descriptive details can evoke specific emotions and moods in your audience.
  • Rhythm and Pace: The rhythm and pace at which your narrative unfolds play a crucial role in establishing tone. Fast-paced writing creates an atmosphere of excitement or tension, perfect for thriller or action sequences. Conversely, a slower pace sets a calm or thoughtful tone, allowing for introspection and detailed exploration.
  • Point of View: Lastly, the point of view from which the story is told can greatly affect its tone. First-person narration often feels personal and intimate because it allows readers direct access to a character's thoughts and feelings. This immediacy can make emotional scenes more impactful. On the other hand, third-person narration can seem more detached or objective, providing a broader perspective on events and characters.

Creating Tension and Engagement with Tone Shifts

A story sticks in our mind not only because of its plot but also due to its fluctuating tones that reflect our own experiences in life: moments of joy followed by sorrow, tranquility preceding chaos. This shifting landscape of emotions keeps us hooked.

Consider Game of Thrones. Its unpredictable shifts from peaceful to violent tones mirror the unpredictability of its narrative world, creating suspense that keeps viewers on their toes.

Examples of Tone in Literature and Advertising

Let's delve into examples from literature and advertising where tone plays a crucial role.

Literature:

In F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the nostalgic and melancholic tone reflects Gatsby's longing for Daisy and his unattainable dream of reliving the past.

Advertising:

Nike's "Just Do It" campaign uses an empowering and motivational tone to inspire potential customers to overcome their challenges — just like their athletic idols featured in the campaign do.

Lessons to Learn From Effective Use Of Tone

From these examples, we learn that:

  • Evoking emotion through tone can deeply engage your audience.
  • Shifting tones can create tension and keep readers engaged.
  • A consistent tone helps establish your brand voice.
  • Using appropriate tonal cues can guide your reader's understanding and interpretation.

So why not give it a shot? Play with your writing style! Experiment with different tones until you find what resonates with your audience. Remember, writing is an art form — it should move people emotionally as well as intellectually!

Developing and Maintaining a Consistent Writing Tone

Writing tone development and maintaining a consistent tone aren't just some fancy buzzwords in the writing world. They are, in fact, the backbone of all effective communication. Whether you're spinning an enthralling fiction, sculpting your brand's voice, or even pouring out your thoughts in a casual email, the tone you adopt can be the deciding factor between engaging your readers or turning them off.

So put on your thinking caps, roll up your sleeves, and grab your pens (or keyboards)! It's time to dive deep into the nitty-gritty of developing and maintaining a consistent writing tone.

Behind-the-Scenes Factors Shaping Your Writing Tone

Akin to the personality of your content, your writing tone is moulded by several factors. Here's a glimpse at some of these backstage heroes:

  • Audience : Understanding your audience is as essential as knowing what you're going to write. Are they young tech enthusiasts who'd appreciate some jargon and humor? Or are they mature professionals who would value a more formal and respectful approach? Tailoring your tone to suit your audience could be the key to winning their hearts.
  • Purpose : What's the end goal of your content? If it's persuasion you're aiming for, an assertive and confident tone could be your secret weapon. For informative content, on the other hand, a neutral and clear-cut tone might work best.
  • Medium : The platform you're using is also a major influencer. A casual and friendly tone might fit perfectly on social media posts, but an academic essay would necessitate a more formal style.
  • Brand/Image : Let's not forget the flavor that your brand image adds to your content! Brands like Apple have mastered this art with their minimalist yet innovative tones.

Remember, these factors aren't isolated entities - they constantly overlap and mingle to shape the overall tone of your writing!

Techniques for Creating Engagement

A well-crafted tone is like the secret ingredient in a recipe that takes your content from being just palatable to downright irresistible. It's the difference between politely nodding listeners and an audience hanging on to your every word. So, how do you evoke such engagement? Let's explore some techniques:

  • Choose Your Words Wisely - This isn't just about picking fancy words or jargon. It's more about understanding that each word carries a unique emotional weight. For instance, imagine describing an event as "fantastic" instead of just "good". The former instantly injects more excitement! Pay special attention to adjectives and adverbs; they are your secret sauce for adding flavor.
  • Play with Sentence Structure - Consider sentences as your musical notes; their varying lengths control the rhythm of your prose. Short sentences create urgency, causing the heart to race. Longer ones slow things down, allowing anticipation to build like a suspenseful melody.
  • Punctuation - The Unsung Hero - Ever considered how much impact those tiny symbols could have? Exclamation points can scream excitement or urgency; ellipsis... they add suspense or suggest a thoughtful pause. Never underestimate these little powerhouses!
  • Use Figures of Speech to Your Advantage - Metaphors, similes, personification – these aren’t just high school English terms. They're tools that can layer your tone with richness and depth.

Remember, shaping your writing tone is akin to being in a playground; there's room for creativity, fun and experimentation!

Consistency: Your Tone's Best Friend

What’s better than capturing the perfect tone? Maintaining it! Consistency is like the glue that holds your brand identity firm and builds trust with readers. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

  • Create a Style Guide : Picture this as your own rulebook, outlining your preferred tone, language usage, punctuation rules and so on. It can be your go-to guide whenever you need a refresher.
  • Stay True to Your Brand Image : Your brand personality should seep through your words consistently. If your brand radiates fun and creativity, let that spirit infect every piece of content!
  • Regularly Review Your Work : Just as athletes review their performance regularly, writers should too! Regular checks can help detect any drifts from the desired tone.

But remember: consistency doesn’t equate to monotonous repetition! It means maintaining character while still keeping things fresh and exciting within your brand parameters.

You’re now armed with all you need to masterfully develop your writing tone! Buckle up and prepare for this thrilling journey into the realm of expressive writing! But hang on - we’re not done yet! We’ve got more in store for you... Like how artificial intelligence tools can take your writing tone game up another notch...

Using AI Tools to Amplify Your Writing Tone

Welcome aboard the future express, where groundbreaking technology marries human creativity! This is the realm where AI writers like Junia are recreating the way we comprehend and implement writing style and tone.

Introducing Junia's Brand Voice Feature

In the buzzing town of content creation, there's a new superstar stealing the limelight: Junia's brand voice feature. This isn't just any tool; it does more than just correct your spelling errors or grammar mishaps. It digs deep into the uncharted territories of brand voice and tone, assuring a level of consistency that was previously hard to achieve across diverse types of content.

Imagine having your own personal writing assistant, who has an advanced understanding of linguistics and can dissect your writing style with utmost precision. That’s what Junia’s Brand Voice feature is all about! It learns from your input, adapts, and evolves to mimic your unique voice (or that of your brand) with each piece of content it assists in crafting.

The Magic Behind Junia AI

Ever wondered how Junia pulls this off? How can a piece of technology encapsulate something as intricate and distinctive as a brand's voice?

The answer lies in its cutting-edge algorithms powered by Natural Language Processing (NLP). Junia AI meticulously dissects every piece of text into bite-sized components, scrutinizing each element for its linguistic characteristics. Be it sentence structure, word choice, punctuation usage or subtler aspects like rhythm and flow – nothing escapes its analytical prowess.

Once it has ingested these insights about your writing style, Junia uses this knowledge to churn out on-brand content that mirrors your consistent voice and tone.

Coaching Junia to Adopt Your Writing Style

At this point, you may be pondering over how to initiate teaching Junia your brand’s unique writing style. Fear not! We've got you covered with a straightforward step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Locate Junia Brand Voice

Begin by launching the Junia AI platform on your device. If you're a new user, register for an account and log in. You can find the Brand Voice on the dashboard.

Locate Junia Brand Voice

Step 2: Feed AI with Past Writing Samples

Begin by feeding Junia samples of your existing content. A diverse set comprising blogs, social media posts, newsletters etc., gives Junia a comprehensive understanding of your style.

Feed AI with Past Writing Samples

Step 3: Review Generated Brand Voice

When Junia creates content based on your samples, invest some time in reviewing it closely. Any discrepancies between the generated content and your brand voice should be promptly corrected.

Review Generated Brand Voice

Step 4: Apply Brand Voice

Begin to utilize the Brand Voice feature of Junia.ai across chat interactions and the AI Editor. By using this feature in templates, you can maintain a consistent voice throughout all written communication channels.

Apply Brand Voice

Bear in mind: Garbage in equals garbage out ! Make sure to provide pertinent information and examples when schooling Junia on your writing style. The higher the quality inputs it gets from you, the superior will be its output.

Giving Your AI Writer a Personal Touch

The idea of an AI writer might conjure up images of sterile, robotic, one-size-fits-all content. But with Junia's customizable feature , that stereotype gets tossed out the window faster than you can say "artificial intelligence"!

This remarkable tool allows you to adjust various parameters to your liking. Want to dictate how verbose or succinct Junia should be in drafting your content? No problem! Fancy having more control over the level of creativity infused into your text? You got it! You can even instruct Junia on specific terminologies or phrases that should be sprinkled in or completely avoided.

This high degree of customization does more than just let you have your way; it guarantees that every piece of content exudes authenticity while maintaining a consistent tone. In essence, it's like having a virtual ghostwriter that pens everything in an unmistakably 'you' manner!

Reaping the Benefits of AI Tools for Unwavering Tone Consistency

So we've established that AI tools are pretty rad when it comes to maintaining a consistent tone. But beyond the tech-savvy allure, what practical benefits do they bring to the table? Well...

  • Efficiency : Through an AI tool like Junia, you can expedite the writing process without any compromise on quality. It's like having your cake and eating it too!
  • Consistency : A steady tone fortifies your brand identity. With Junia, this consistency is ensured across all types of content - be it blogs, social media posts or newsletters.
  • Flexibility : Whether you're penning the content yourself or delegating it to someone else on your team, an AI tool ensures everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to brand voice.
  • Scalability : If you need to increase content production without diluting your brand voice, an AI tool is your ticket to seamless scalability!

In our digital age where content reigns supreme, having a resource like Junia's Brand Voice feature is akin to having an astute royal advisor by your side. It guarantees that every word penned resonates perfectly with who you truly are and what your brand represents.

So why not give Junia a spin and experience firsthand how this smart AI writer can revolutionize your content generation process? After all, there's nothing quite like standing apart from the crowd with uniquely crafted content that screams 'you'!

Embracing the Importance of Tone

Undeniably, the significance of tone in writing has been illuminated throughout this guide. Call it the silent language, the unsung hero, or the secret sauce — tone is vital. Remember how we likened it to the music that accompanies a scene in a movie? It's subtle, but it can dramatically shift how your audience perceives your message.

"The right tone can turn words into symphonies, and messages into movements."

Think back on all we've covered. Each type of tone, with its unique attributes and applications, gives you another tool in your writer’s toolbox. Whether it's authoritative, sarcastic, or romantic — your choice of tone can make or break your written piece.

Now, let's imagine having an assistant that helps you strike the perfect tone each time you write. Sounds too good to be true? Well, welcome to the future!

Junia's Brand Voice Feature: Your Writing Assistant

Consider Junia's Brand Voice feature as that reliable friend who advises you on what to wear based on where you are headed. It's an AI-powered tool designed to analyze and generate content that aligns with your brand’s unique voice.

This revolutionary tool doesn't just mimic your writing style; it understands it. Feed it examples — blog posts, tweets, marketing copies — and watch as it learns to write just like you...or even better!

A Step Towards Consistency

Consistency is key when maintaining your brand voice and nothing ensures consistency better than Junia AI. It effortlessly keeps everything — from social media posts to email newsletters — in harmony with your brand character.

"With Junia AI, maintaining a consistent tone is no longer a daunting task but an exciting journey."

A Call for Authenticity

We've stressed on authenticity; how genuine tones resonate more with readers. Junia AI helps uphold this authenticity by customizing content that stays true to your brand’s essence while evoking desired emotions from readers.

So there you have it! We've decoded the enigma surrounding tone in writing and even introduced a handy sidekick for all your writing adventures. As writers and communicators, let's pledge to wield our new-found knowledge responsibly and create content that moves hearts and minds!

Remember...

"Tone is not just about what we say; it’s about how we make people feel."

Frequently asked questions

  • What is the definition and importance of tone in writing? Tone refers to the writer's attitude or emotional perspective towards the subject matter and audience. It is crucial in writing as it influences how readers interpret and engage with the content. The tone can alter the reader's perception, either enhancing their understanding or causing confusion. Therefore, choosing an appropriate tone is a key aspect of effective communication.
  • How is tone connected to brand voice? Tone is an integral part of a brand's voice. While brand voice signifies the unique personality of a brand, tone adds nuance to that voice based on the context. It reflects the brand's values and shapes its identity, playing a pivotal role in how the audience perceives and interacts with the brand.
  • What are some examples of different types of tones in writing? There are numerous types of tones used in writing, each evoking different emotions and responses from readers. These include formal (used for professional, academic, or legal contexts), informal (used for casual or personal communication), persuasive (aimed at convincing readers), inspirational (meant to motivate or uplift), conversational (mimics everyday speech), humorous (intended to entertain), sarcastic (often used to convey irony or mock), descriptive (provides detailed information), didactic (intended to instruct or teach), and emotional (expresses strong feelings).
  • Why is it important to transition between tones for effective communication? Transitioning between tones based on context allows writers to cater their message more effectively to different audiences or situations. This flexibility enhances communication effectiveness by ensuring that the message is conveyed appropriately and understood correctly. However, while transitioning between tones, it's vital not to lose sight of the consistent brand voice.
  • What are some strategies for maintaining consistency in writing tone? To maintain consistency in writing tone, writers should start by defining their brand personality and understanding their target audience's preferences. They should then create guidelines outlining their preferred tone for various contexts. Regularly reviewing and updating these guidelines, as well as training all team members on them, can help ensure consistency across all communications.
  • How can AI tools enhance writing tone? AI tools like Junia's Brand Voice feature can be immensely helpful in maintaining a consistent writing tone. They can analyze existing content for tone and style, provide suggestions for improvement, and generate new content that aligns with your established guidelines. This not only ensures consistency but also saves time and resources by automating part of the content creation process.
  • What is the role of tone in storytelling? In storytelling, tone sets the mood and influences how readers perceive characters and events. It can create suspense, evoke empathy, foster a sense of familiarity or alienation, among other effects. A well-chosen tone can make a story more engaging, memorable, and impactful.
  • What are some examples of effective use of tone in literature and advertising? The Catcher in The Rye by J.D Salinger uses a conversational and cynical tone which helps readers understand Holden Caulfield’s character better. In advertising, Nike often uses an inspirational tone that resonates with their 'Just Do It' slogan – encouraging customers to overcome challenges.

The Write Practice

Tone in Writing: 42 Examples of Tone For All Types of Writing

by Joe Bunting | 0 comments

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What is tone in writing and why does it matter?

Tone is key for 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.

Tone in Writing: 42 Examples of Tone For All Types of Writing

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.

  • Pessimistic
  • Inspirational

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 (and if you’re not a member yet, you can join here ), and share feedback with a few other writers. 

how to determine the tone of an essay

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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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6.1 Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the four common academic purposes.
  • Identify audience, tone, and content.
  • Apply purpose, audience, tone, and content to a specific assignment.

Imagine reading one long block of text, with each idea blurring into the next. Even if you are reading a thrilling novel or an interesting news article, you will likely lose interest in what the author has to say very quickly. During the writing process, it is helpful to position yourself as a reader. Ask yourself whether you can focus easily on each point you make. One technique that effective writers use is to begin a fresh paragraph for each new idea they introduce.

Paragraphs separate ideas into logical, manageable chunks. One paragraph focuses on only one main idea and presents coherent sentences to support that one point. Because all the sentences in one paragraph support the same point, a paragraph may stand on its own. To create longer assignments and to discuss more than one point, writers group together paragraphs.

Three elements shape the content of each paragraph:

  • Purpose . The reason the writer composes the paragraph.
  • Tone . The attitude the writer conveys about the paragraph’s subject.
  • Audience . The individual or group whom the writer intends to address.

Figure 6.1 Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content Triangle

Purpose, Audience, Tone, and Content Triangle

The assignment’s purpose, audience, and tone dictate what the paragraph covers and how it will support one main point. This section covers how purpose, audience, and tone affect reading and writing paragraphs.

Identifying Common Academic Purposes

The purpose for a piece of writing identifies the reason you write a particular document. Basically, the purpose of a piece of writing answers the question “Why?” For example, why write a play? To entertain a packed theater. Why write instructions to the babysitter? To inform him or her of your schedule and rules. Why write a letter to your congressman? To persuade him to address your community’s needs.

In academic settings, the reasons for writing fulfill four main purposes: to summarize, to analyze, to synthesize, and to evaluate. You will encounter these four purposes not only as you read for your classes but also as you read for work or pleasure. Because reading and writing work together, your writing skills will improve as you read. To learn more about reading in the writing process, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

Eventually, your instructors will ask you to complete assignments specifically designed to meet one of the four purposes. As you will see, the purpose for writing will guide you through each part of the paper, helping you make decisions about content and style. For now, identifying these purposes by reading paragraphs will prepare you to write individual paragraphs and to build longer assignments.

Summary Paragraphs

A summary shrinks a large amount of information into only the essentials. You probably summarize events, books, and movies daily. Think about the last blockbuster movie you saw or the last novel you read. Chances are, at some point in a casual conversation with a friend, coworker, or classmate, you compressed all the action in a two-hour film or in a two-hundred-page book into a brief description of the major plot movements. While in conversation, you probably described the major highlights, or the main points in just a few sentences, using your own vocabulary and manner of speaking.

Similarly, a summary paragraph condenses a long piece of writing into a smaller paragraph by extracting only the vital information. A summary uses only the writer’s own words. Like the summary’s purpose in daily conversation, the purpose of an academic summary paragraph is to maintain all the essential information from a longer document. Although shorter than the original piece of writing, a summary should still communicate all the key points and key support. In other words, summary paragraphs should be succinct and to the point.

A mock paper with three paragraphs

A summary of the report should present all the main points and supporting details in brief. Read the following summary of the report written by a student:

The mock paper continued

Notice how the summary retains the key points made by the writers of the original report but omits most of the statistical data. Summaries need not contain all the specific facts and figures in the original document; they provide only an overview of the essential information.

Analysis Paragraphs

An analysis separates complex materials in their different parts and studies how the parts relate to one another. The analysis of simple table salt, for example, would require a deconstruction of its parts—the elements sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl). Then, scientists would study how the two elements interact to create the compound NaCl, or sodium chloride, which is also called simple table salt.

Analysis is not limited to the sciences, of course. An analysis paragraph in academic writing fulfills the same purpose. Instead of deconstructing compounds, academic analysis paragraphs typically deconstruct documents. An analysis takes apart a primary source (an essay, a book, an article, etc.) point by point. It communicates the main points of the document by examining individual points and identifying how the points relate to one another.

Take a look at a student’s analysis of the journal report.

Take a look at a student's analysis of the journal report

Notice how the analysis does not simply repeat information from the original report, but considers how the points within the report relate to one another. By doing this, the student uncovers a discrepancy between the points that are backed up by statistics and those that require additional information. Analyzing a document involves a close examination of each of the individual parts and how they work together.

Synthesis Paragraphs

A synthesis combines two or more items to create an entirely new item. Consider the electronic musical instrument aptly named the synthesizer. It looks like a simple keyboard but displays a dashboard of switches, buttons, and levers. With the flip of a few switches, a musician may combine the distinct sounds of a piano, a flute, or a guitar—or any other combination of instruments—to create a new sound. The purpose of the synthesizer is to blend together the notes from individual instruments to form new, unique notes.

The purpose of an academic synthesis is to blend individual documents into a new document. An academic synthesis paragraph considers the main points from one or more pieces of writing and links the main points together to create a new point, one not replicated in either document.

Take a look at a student’s synthesis of several sources about underage drinking.

A student's synthesis of several sources about underage drinking

Notice how the synthesis paragraphs consider each source and use information from each to create a new thesis. A good synthesis does not repeat information; the writer uses a variety of sources to create a new idea.

Evaluation Paragraphs

An evaluation judges the value of something and determines its worth. Evaluations in everyday experiences are often not only dictated by set standards but also influenced by opinion and prior knowledge. For example, at work, a supervisor may complete an employee evaluation by judging his subordinate’s performance based on the company’s goals. If the company focuses on improving communication, the supervisor will rate the employee’s customer service according to a standard scale. However, the evaluation still depends on the supervisor’s opinion and prior experience with the employee. The purpose of the evaluation is to determine how well the employee performs at his or her job.

An academic evaluation communicates your opinion, and its justifications, about a document or a topic of discussion. Evaluations are influenced by your reading of the document, your prior knowledge, and your prior experience with the topic or issue. Because an evaluation incorporates your point of view and reasons for your point of view, it typically requires more critical thinking and a combination of summary, analysis, and synthesis skills. Thus evaluation paragraphs often follow summary, analysis, and synthesis paragraphs. Read a student’s evaluation paragraph.

A student's evaluation paragraph

Notice how the paragraph incorporates the student’s personal judgment within the evaluation. Evaluating a document requires prior knowledge that is often based on additional research.

When reviewing directions for assignments, look for the verbs summarize , analyze , synthesize , or evaluate . Instructors often use these words to clearly indicate the assignment’s purpose. These words will cue you on how to complete the assignment because you will know its exact purpose.

Read the following paragraphs about four films and then identify the purpose of each paragraph.

  • This film could easily have been cut down to less than two hours. By the final scene, I noticed that most of my fellow moviegoers were snoozing in their seats and were barely paying attention to what was happening on screen. Although the director sticks diligently to the book, he tries too hard to cram in all the action, which is just too ambitious for such a detail-oriented story. If you want my advice, read the book and give the movie a miss.
  • During the opening scene, we learn that the character Laura is adopted and that she has spent the past three years desperately trying to track down her real parents. Having exhausted all the usual options—adoption agencies, online searches, family trees, and so on—she is on the verge of giving up when she meets a stranger on a bus. The chance encounter leads to a complicated chain of events that ultimately result in Laura getting her lifelong wish. But is it really what she wants? Throughout the rest of the film, Laura discovers that sometimes the past is best left where it belongs.
  • To create the feeling of being gripped in a vice, the director, May Lee, uses a variety of elements to gradually increase the tension. The creepy, haunting melody that subtly enhances the earlier scenes becomes ever more insistent, rising to a disturbing crescendo toward the end of the movie. The desperation of the actors, combined with the claustrophobic atmosphere and tight camera angles create a realistic firestorm, from which there is little hope of escape. Walking out of the theater at the end feels like staggering out of a Roman dungeon.
  • The scene in which Campbell and his fellow prisoners assist the guards in shutting down the riot immediately strikes the viewer as unrealistic. Based on the recent reports on prison riots in both Detroit and California, it seems highly unlikely that a posse of hardened criminals will intentionally help their captors at the risk of inciting future revenge from other inmates. Instead, both news reports and psychological studies indicate that prisoners who do not actively participate in a riot will go back to their cells and avoid conflict altogether. Examples of this lack of attention to detail occur throughout the film, making it almost unbearable to watch.

Collaboration

Share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Writing at Work

Thinking about the purpose of writing a report in the workplace can help focus and structure the document. A summary should provide colleagues with a factual overview of your findings without going into too much specific detail. In contrast, an evaluation should include your personal opinion, along with supporting evidence, research, or examples to back it up. Listen for words such as summarize , analyze , synthesize , or evaluate when your boss asks you to complete a report to help determine a purpose for writing.

Consider the essay most recently assigned to you. Identify the most effective academic purpose for the assignment.

My assignment: ____________________________________________

My purpose: ____________________________________________

Identifying the Audience

Imagine you must give a presentation to a group of executives in an office. Weeks before the big day, you spend time creating and rehearsing the presentation. You must make important, careful decisions not only about the content but also about your delivery. Will the presentation require technology to project figures and charts? Should the presentation define important words, or will the executives already know the terms? Should you wear your suit and dress shirt? The answers to these questions will help you develop an appropriate relationship with your audience, making them more receptive to your message.

Now imagine you must explain the same business concepts from your presentation to a group of high school students. Those important questions you previously answered may now require different answers. The figures and charts may be too sophisticated, and the terms will certainly require definitions. You may even reconsider your outfit and sport a more casual look. Because the audience has shifted, your presentation and delivery will shift as well to create a new relationship with the new audience.

In these two situations, the audience—the individuals who will watch and listen to the presentation—plays a role in the development of presentation. As you prepare the presentation, you visualize the audience to anticipate their expectations and reactions. What you imagine affects the information you choose to present and how you will present it. Then, during the presentation, you meet the audience in person and discover immediately how well you perform.

Although the audience for writing assignments—your readers—may not appear in person, they play an equally vital role. Even in everyday writing activities, you identify your readers’ characteristics, interests, and expectations before making decisions about what you write. In fact, thinking about audience has become so common that you may not even detect the audience-driven decisions.

For example, you update your status on a social networking site with the awareness of who will digitally follow the post. If you want to brag about a good grade, you may write the post to please family members. If you want to describe a funny moment, you may write with your friends’ senses of humor in mind. Even at work, you send e-mails with an awareness of an unintended receiver who could intercept the message.

In other words, being aware of “invisible” readers is a skill you most likely already possess and one you rely on every day. Consider the following paragraphs. Which one would the author send to her parents? Which one would she send to her best friend?

Last Saturday, I volunteered at a local hospital. The visit was fun and rewarding. I even learned how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. Unfortunately, I think caught a cold from one of the patients. This week, I will rest in bed and drink plenty of clear fluids. I hope I am well by next Saturday to volunteer again.

OMG! You won’t believe this! My advisor forced me to do my community service hours at this hospital all weekend! We learned CPR but we did it on dummies, not even real peeps. And some kid sneezed on me and got me sick! I was so bored and sniffling all weekend; I hope I don’t have to go back next week. I def do NOT want to miss the basketball tournament!

Most likely, you matched each paragraph to its intended audience with little hesitation. Because each paragraph reveals the author’s relationship with her intended readers, you can identify the audience fairly quickly. When writing your own paragraphs, you must engage with your audience to build an appropriate relationship given your subject. Imagining your readers during each stage of the writing process will help you make decisions about your writing. Ultimately, the people you visualize will affect what and how you write.

While giving a speech, you may articulate an inspiring or critical message, but if you left your hair a mess and laced up mismatched shoes, your audience would not take you seriously. They may be too distracted by your appearance to listen to your words.

Similarly, grammar and sentence structure serve as the appearance of a piece of writing. Polishing your work using correct grammar will impress your readers and allow them to focus on what you have to say.

Because focusing on audience will enhance your writing, your process, and your finished product, you must consider the specific traits of your audience members. Use your imagination to anticipate the readers’ demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations.

  • Demographics. These measure important data about a group of people, such as their age range, their ethnicity, their religious beliefs, or their gender. Certain topics and assignments will require these kinds of considerations about your audience. For other topics and assignments, these measurements may not influence your writing in the end. Regardless, it is important to consider demographics when you begin to think about your purpose for writing.
  • Education. Education considers the audience’s level of schooling. If audience members have earned a doctorate degree, for example, you may need to elevate your style and use more formal language. Or, if audience members are still in college, you could write in a more relaxed style. An audience member’s major or emphasis may also dictate your writing.
  • Prior knowledge. This refers to what the audience already knows about your topic. If your readers have studied certain topics, they may already know some terms and concepts related to the topic. You may decide whether to define terms and explain concepts based on your audience’s prior knowledge. Although you cannot peer inside the brains of your readers to discover their knowledge, you can make reasonable assumptions. For instance, a nursing major would presumably know more about health-related topics than a business major would.
  • Expectations. These indicate what readers will look for while reading your assignment. Readers may expect consistencies in the assignment’s appearance, such as correct grammar and traditional formatting like double-spaced lines and legible font. Readers may also have content-based expectations given the assignment’s purpose and organization. In an essay titled “The Economics of Enlightenment: The Effects of Rising Tuition,” for example, audience members may expect to read about the economic repercussions of college tuition costs.

On your own sheet of paper, generate a list of characteristics under each category for each audience. This list will help you later when you read about tone and content.

1. Your classmates

  • Demographics ____________________________________________
  • Education ____________________________________________
  • Prior knowledge ____________________________________________
  • Expectations ____________________________________________

2. Your instructor

3. The head of your academic department

4. Now think about your next writing assignment. Identify the purpose (you may use the same purpose listed in Note 6.12 “Exercise 2” ), and then identify the audience. Create a list of characteristics under each category.

My audience: ____________________________________________

Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Keep in mind that as your topic shifts in the writing process, your audience may also shift. For more information about the writing process, see Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” .

Also, remember that decisions about style depend on audience, purpose, and content. Identifying your audience’s demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations will affect how you write, but purpose and content play an equally important role. The next subsection covers how to select an appropriate tone to match the audience and purpose.

Selecting an Appropriate Tone

Tone identifies a speaker’s attitude toward a subject or another person. You may pick up a person’s tone of voice fairly easily in conversation. A friend who tells you about her weekend may speak excitedly about a fun skiing trip. An instructor who means business may speak in a low, slow voice to emphasize her serious mood. Or, a coworker who needs to let off some steam after a long meeting may crack a sarcastic joke.

Just as speakers transmit emotion through voice, writers can transmit through writing a range of attitudes, from excited and humorous to somber and critical. These emotions create connections among the audience, the author, and the subject, ultimately building a relationship between the audience and the text. To stimulate these connections, writers intimate their attitudes and feelings with useful devices, such as sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and formal or informal language. Keep in mind that the writer’s attitude should always appropriately match the audience and the purpose.

Read the following paragraph and consider the writer’s tone. How would you describe the writer’s attitude toward wildlife conservation?

Many species of plants and animals are disappearing right before our eyes. If we don’t act fast, it might be too late to save them. Human activities, including pollution, deforestation, hunting, and overpopulation, are devastating the natural environment. Without our help, many species will not survive long enough for our children to see them in the wild. Take the tiger, for example. Today, tigers occupy just 7 percent of their historical range, and many local populations are already extinct. Hunted for their beautiful pelt and other body parts, the tiger population has plummeted from one hundred thousand in 1920 to just a few thousand. Contact your local wildlife conservation society today to find out how you can stop this terrible destruction.

Think about the assignment and purpose you selected in Note 6.12 “Exercise 2” , and the audience you selected in Note 6.16 “Exercise 3” . Now, identify the tone you would use in the assignment.

My tone: ____________________________________________

Choosing Appropriate, Interesting Content

Content refers to all the written substance in a document. After selecting an audience and a purpose, you must choose what information will make it to the page. Content may consist of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes, testimonies, and observations, but no matter the type, the information must be appropriate and interesting for the audience and purpose. An essay written for third graders that summarizes the legislative process, for example, would have to contain succinct and simple content.

Content is also shaped by tone. When the tone matches the content, the audience will be more engaged, and you will build a stronger relationship with your readers. Consider that audience of third graders. You would choose simple content that the audience will easily understand, and you would express that content through an enthusiastic tone. The same considerations apply to all audiences and purposes.

Match the content in the box to the appropriate audience and purpose. On your own sheet of paper, write the correct letter next to the number.

  • Whereas economist Holmes contends that the financial crisis is far from over, the presidential advisor Jones points out that it is vital to catch the first wave of opportunity to increase market share. We can use elements of both experts’ visions. Let me explain how.
  • In 2000, foreign money flowed into the United States, contributing to easy credit conditions. People bought larger houses than they could afford, eventually defaulting on their loans as interest rates rose.
  • The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, known by most of us as the humungous government bailout, caused mixed reactions. Although supported by many political leaders, the statute provoked outrage among grassroots groups. In their opinion, the government was actually rewarding banks for their appalling behavior.

Audience: An instructor

Purpose: To analyze the reasons behind the 2007 financial crisis

Content: ____________________________________________

Audience: Classmates

Purpose: To summarize the effects of the $700 billion government bailout

Audience: An employer

Purpose: To synthesize two articles on preparing businesses for economic recovery

Using the assignment, purpose, audience, and tone from Note 6.18 “Exercise 4” , generate a list of content ideas. Remember that content consists of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes, testimonies, and observations.

My content ideas: ____________________________________________

Key Takeaways

  • Paragraphs separate ideas into logical, manageable chunks of information.
  • The content of each paragraph and document is shaped by purpose, audience, and tone.
  • The four common academic purposes are to summarize, to analyze, to synthesize, and to evaluate.
  • Identifying the audience’s demographics, education, prior knowledge, and expectations will affect how and what you write.
  • Devices such as sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, and formal or informal language communicate tone and create a relationship between the writer and his or her audience.
  • Content may consist of examples, statistics, facts, anecdotes, testimonies, and observations. All content must be appropriate and interesting for the audience, purpose and tone.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Tone, Mood, and Audience 

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When thinking about proper diction, an author should consider three main categories:  tone ,  mood , and  audience .   

Audience  refers to who will be reading the work. Authors tend to write to a particular audience, whether kids, or young adults, or  specialist within a field. The audience can affect the  mood  and  tone  of the writing  because different audiences have different expectations.    Tone  refers to the author’s attitude—how they feel about their subject and their readers. It expresses something of the author’s persona, the aspects of their personality they wish to show to their readers. For example, are they being funny or serious? Are they writing with fondness or with  derision ?    Mood  refers to the overall atmosphere or feeling of a piece of writing. It is often closely related to  tone, because  the author’s attitude influences the overall feeling of a text.  It’s  difficult, for instance, to take a  jovial  tone if the overall mood of the piece ought to be somber, or vice versa.  Wuthering Heights  by Emily Bront ë  would be  far less effective  as a gothic  text if  its  spooky atmosphere  was  interrupted by witty , sarcastic  commentary in the style of Jane Austen .

Take, for example,  this qu ote from  Wuthering Heights :  

Th is passage displays  heightened emotions and dark themes  through the use of  words like “ghost,” “haunt,” a nd “abyss,” among others. Consider how much less effective this p assage would be if the narration sounded like  Pride  and Prejudice :  “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”    

Using the  appropriate kind  of descriptive words, including  imagery , or vivid language used to paint a mental picture, can convey  mood  and  tone  by helping readers get a  clearer sense of what  they’re  reading about and how the author thinks and feels about the subject, and thus what  they’re  supposed to think and feel.  

Diction can help authors make audiences feel a certain way, like in the example above. Similarly,  different styles  of diction  may  be targeted at different audiences— there’s  a good reason  Wuthering Heights  is aimed at  teenagers and  adults rather than young children, for instance. In addition to the content of the text, the elevated and  somewhat antiquated  diction would make it  very challenging  for younger audiences to understand.  Conversely, a paper aimed at an audience of academic experts would  probably be  expected to use more jargon and complicated diction.

Take, for example, this simplistic description of Pluto’s orbit  from  Astronomy.com’s  Astronomy for Kids educational resource:   

Compare   this language with   the highly techni cal language used in   an   Encyclopedia Britannica article on Pluto :  

These texts, while essentially saying the same thing, are using wildly different language due to the disparity between their intended audiences.  

3 Tricks to Figure out the Author's Tone

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how to determine the tone of an essay

  • B.A., English, University of Michigan

Author's tone is simply an author's expressed attitude toward a particular written subject. It may not be his or her actual attitude as authors can certainly express an attitude other than their own. It's very different from the  author's purpose ! The tone of the article, essay, story, poem, novel, screenplay, or any other written work can be described in many ways. The author's tone can be witty, dreary, warm, playful, outraged, neutral, polished, wistful, reserved, and on and on. Basically, if there's an attitude out there, an author can write with it. To better understand tone, you should practice .

So, now that you know what it is, how can you determine the author's tone when you get to a reading comprehension test? Here are a few tricks to help you nail it every time.

Read the Introductory Info

On most major reading comprehension tests , the test makers will give you a little snippet of information along with the author's name prior to the text itself. Take these two examples from the ACT Reading test :

Passage 1: "This passage is adapted from the chapter “Personality Disorders” in Introduction to Psychology, edited by Rita L. Atkinson and Richard C. Atkinson (©1981 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.)."

Passage 2: "This passage is adapted from the novel The Men of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (©1998 by Gloria Naylor)."

Without reading any portion of the text itself, you can already determine that the first text will have a more serious tone. The author writes in a scientific journal, so the tone will have to be more reserved. The second text could be anything at all, so when you're reading, you'll need to use another trick to determine the author's tone.

Watch Word Choice

Word choice plays a major part in the tone of a piece. If you look at the examples given in the "What is Author's Tone" article, you'll see how very different an identical situation can be by just the words an author chooses to use. Look at the following words and see how they reflect a different feeling, even though the words are similar in meaning.

  • Sit in the sunshine and smile. Bask in the brilliant rays. Discover your giggle.
  • Sit in the hot sun and smirk. Recline in the glaring rays. Hunt for that snicker. 
  • Sit in the warm sun and grin. Relax in the warm rays. Look for a chuckle.

Even though all three sentences are written almost identically, the tones are very different. One is more relaxing—you can picture a lazy afternoon by the pool. The other is more joyful—maybe playing in the park on a sunny day. The other is definitely more sarcastic and negative, even though it's written about sitting in the sun.

Go With Your Gut

Often, a tone is tough to describe, but you know what it is. You get a particular feeling from the text—an urgency or a certain amount of sadness. You feel angry after reading it and can sense the author is angry, too. Or you find yourself chuckling throughout the text even though nothing comes right out and screams "funny!" So, on these kinds of texts, and the corresponding author's tone questions, trust your gut. And on the author's tone questions, hide the answers and make yourself come up with a guess before looking. Take this question for example:

The author of the article would most likely describe ballet as...

Before you get to the answer choices, try to finish the sentence. Put an adjective in there based on what you've read. Amusing? Essential? Cut-throat? Joyous? Then, when you've answered the question with a gut reaction, read the answer choices to see if your choice, or something similar, is there. More often than not, your brain knows the answer even if you doubt it!

  • What Is Author's Tone?
  • Worksheet 1: Author's Tone
  • Worksheet 1 Answer Key: Author's Tone
  • Reading Comprehension Practice Questions
  • How to Make an Inference in 5 Easy Steps
  • What is The Author's Purpose?
  • Test Hacks for GRE Verbal
  • Finding the Author's Purpose
  • ACT Reading Test Questions, Content, and Scores
  • "What to the Slave..." Reading Comprehension Worksheet Answers
  • Top 5 ACT Reading Strategies
  • Multiple Choice Test Strategies
  • Inference: A Critical Assumption
  • Mood in Composition and Literature
  • What Is Tone In Writing?
  • SAT Literature Subject Test Information
  • How to Cite
  • Language & Lit
  • Rhyme & Rhythm
  • The Rewrite
  • Search Glass

How to Identify Tone in an Essay

In order to identify the tone, the reader should try to identify emotional meaning of the essay. Tone is the writer or the speaker's implied attitude toward his or her subject and/or the reader or audience (see Reference 1). Writers convey their attitudes in the words they choose and in the style in which they write, in turn creating the atmosphere or mood of the essay.

Identifying Tone

The reader should approach identifying the tone in an essay in much the same way that he would identify the tone of a speaker. A mother’s tone with her son might be stern, angry or disapproving if he comes home with a bad report card, and jovial, ecstatic or nonchalant if he comes home with a great report card. Similarly, the tone of a persuasive essay might be serious and formal, while the tone of a travelogue might be humorous and satirical. In general, the tone of an essay may be described as serious, ironic, formal, informal, angry, funny or any other adjective that appropriately defines the implied attitude of the writer or the speaker.

Function of Tone

In order to identify tone, the reader should understand its function. The main function of tone is to create a particular atmosphere or mood in the mind of the reader (see Reference 1). In the above example, the different tones that the mother uses with her son will evoke different feelings in the son, thus creating different moods in the home at the time of the conversation. The tone in an essay serves the same function. It evokes certain feelings in the reader, establishing the atmosphere or mood of the essay.

In order to identify both the tone of the essay and the mood that it evokes, the reader should examine the style in which the essay is written. More specifically, in order to identify the tone, the reader should analyze the essay’s diction. The writer creates the essay using particular words. The writer’s choice of words is called diction (see References 1 and 2). The use, the arrangement and the meaning of these words creates the essay’s tone (see Reference 2).

Effect of Diction on Tone

In identifying tone, the reader should consider the effect that certain types of diction have on the tone of the essay. For instance, certain types of diction, like hyperbole and litotes, say a lot about the writer’s implied attitude (see Reference 2). Hyperbole is an overstatement or an exaggeration, in which the writer says more than he really means. An essay that employs a lot of hyperbole may have a tone of sarcasm, revealing a superior attitude toward his subject or the audience. Litotes is an understatement, in which the writer says less than he really means. This type of language is an underrating of a subject. An essay that uses a lot of understatements may have a mocking tone.

  • Humboldt State University: Elements of Fiction: Tone; Tracy Duckart

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice

Style is the way in which something is written, as opposed to the meaning of what is written. In writing, however, the two are very closely linked. As the package for the meaning of the text, style influences the reader’s impression of the information itself. Style includes diction and tone. The main goal in considering style is to present your information in a manner appropriate for both the audience and the purpose of the writing. Consistency is vital. Switching styles can distract the reader and diminish the believability of the paper’s argument.

Diction is word choice. When writing, use vocabulary suited for the type of assignment. Words that have almost the same denotation (dictionary meaning) can have very different connotations (implied meanings). 

Besides the level of formality, also consider positive or negative connotations of the words chosen.

Some types of diction are almost never advisable in writing. Avoid clichés, vagueness (language that has more than one equally probable meaning), wordiness, and unnecessarily complex language.

Aside from individual word choice, the overall tone, or attitude, of a piece of writing should be appropriate to the audience and purpose. The tone may be objective or subjective, logical or emotional, intimate or distant, serious or humorous. It can consist mostly of long, intricate sentences, of short, simple ones, or of something in between. (Good writers frequently vary the length of their sentences.)

One way to achieve proper tone is to imagine a situation in which to say the words being written. A journal might be like a conversation with a close friend where there is the freedom to use slang or other casual forms of speech. A column for a newspaper may be more like a high-school graduation speech: it can be more formal, but it can still be funny or familiar. An academic paper is like a formal speech at a conference: being interesting is desirable, but there is no room for personal digressions or familiar usage of slang words. 

In all of these cases, there is some freedom of self-expression while adapting to the audience. In the same way, writing should change to suit the occasion. 

Tone vs. Voice

Anything you write should still have your voice: something that makes your writing sound uniquely like you. A personal conversation with a friend differs from a speech given to a large group of strangers. Just as you speak to different people in different ways yet remain yourself, so the tone of your writing can vary with the situation while the voice -- the essential, individual thoughts and expression -- is still your own. 

“Don’t play what’s there; play what’s not there.”       - Miles Davis “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes—ah, that is where the art resides.”       - Artur Schnabel (1882–1951), German-born U.S. pianist.

These two musicians expressed the same thought in their own unique voices.

Reference: Strunk, William Jr., and E. B. White. The Elements of Style . 4th ed., Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Copyright © 2009 Wheaton College Writing Center

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how to determine the tone of an essay

What is the appropriate tone for a college essay?

how to determine the tone of an essay

It’s no secret that the college process can often feel like a numbers game. Depending on your relationship to standardized testing and numbered scores in general, this can be either a curse or a blessing. Regardless, if you’re hoping to apply to college, especially any colleges that accept the Common Application , chances are the college essay looms somewhere in your future.

In the same way that standardized testing might feel different for different people, whether or not the phrase “college essay” causes your stomach to drop from panic will depend upon your relationship and level of comfort with the written word. If you and the written word are already in a healthy long-term relationship, then you’re probably aware that one of the most important aspects of any piece of writing is tone. The right tone can allow your readers to understand you and your message even more—and the wrong tone, of course, can communicate an entirely different message than you might have intended. Luckily, CollegeVine is here to help. For tips and tricks on taking control of your tone in college essays, read on!

What is tone?

Tone is what helps us differentiate between “Yes, it’s totally fine! I understand and I’m not upset at all.” and “Yeah. It’s totally fine. I understand. I’m not upset at all .”

The dictionary defines tone as “ s tyle or manner of expression in speaking or writing. ” In verbal communication, we can interpret the tone of a conversation based on one’s intonation (the rise and fall of someone’s voice when they speak), body language, as well as other nonverbal cues.

In written communication, however, you obviously aren’t standing face to face with someone interpreting what they say. In lieu of these nonverbal cues, we use things like diction, punctuation, capitalization and sentence structure to add to our message. The context of a given piece is also very important—in this blog post, we’ll mostly be discussing tone in the context of a personal statement to be submitted to college admissions committees, but it is important to note that the different circumstances under which you are writing something will greatly impact the tone of your piece and the way in which it is perceived by your readers.

One of the most important aspects of tone in writing to discuss is the fact that small details can make a huge difference. Think about the example above:

“Yes, it’s totally fine! I understand and I’m not upset and all.”

“Yeah. It’s totally fine. I understand. I’m not upset at all .”

Visually, the two sentences are not all that different, and theoretically, they should be communicating the same message. While the first sentence is straightforward and sincere, the second sentence would likely be interpreted as passive aggressive. Notice the small details that cause the two sentences to communicate two entirely different things.

In considering tone, it might also help you to think about how you would respond to a text from a friend versus how you would respond to an email from your boss. The two would likely be very different because in one case you would be taking a casual tone, and in the other you would hopefully be taking a professional tone.

The Dos & Don’ts of Tone in your College Essay

There is no “perfect tone” for a college essay — given that it should be a reflection of your personality, it will be different for everyone. This being said, there are some tips and tricks that you can follow to make sure that your vibrant personality will shine through in your personal statement. -->

Keep it real —  One of the most important questions to keep in mind when considering tone in your college essay is: Is it true to who I am? Colleges want to get to know you and your personality through your essay. This means that the more unique and real you can make the tone of your college essay, the better. If you love to crack jokes, consider making a few ( tasteful ) jokes in your essay. If you’re more serious, take a more serious tone. If you’re sarcastic, try to include this (but be sure to be careful with this—run it by a few trusted readers first to make sure there’s absolutely no way that your words will be misinterpreted).

Flex your vocabulary knowledge — Your college essay is a great time to show adcoms your level of comfort with the english language, especially with higher-level vocab words. Watch out for the words in writing that typically fall flat or are overused — “good” can easily become “marvelous, wonderful, memorable, etc.” and  “said” can transform into “stated, yelled, remarked, explained…” When it’s appropriate, don’t shy away from using some of the SAT vocab words you’ve likely spent long nights memorizing!

Keep it grammatically correct — Always pay attention to grammar in your essay, even when making choices to benefit your tone. There is nothing worse than trying to be stylistically daring but ending up just making a grammatical error. Short sentences can be a really effective rhetorical tool, for example, but you should never have a sentence without a predicate. Make sure that you understand the proper usages of semicolons, em dashes and colons before you use them in your essay.

Be patient and have fun — Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment with the tone of your essay. Almost everyone’s essay will end up going through multiple different iterations and drafts. If something doesn’t feel quite right, don’t be afraid to start over or make whatever adjustments you need. Though it may feel daunting and confusing, ultimately your college essay is an exciting way for adcoms to get to know you and determine if you’ll be a good fit for their school.

Be overly formal — Taking an overly formal tone in your college essay will appear stiff and out of touch with modern language. Adcoms will likely think that this sort of tone comes from an applicant that is trying too hard to impress them, or hiding behind big words and complicated language to make themselves seem smarter.

Take a stylistic risk that sacrifices grammar — This is mentioned above, but we really can’t stress it enough. Pablo Picasso once said, “ Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” While this is very much true in all forms of writing, messing up your grammar on a college essay demonstrates that you don’t even know all the rules in the first place. Be sure to exercise extreme caution when it comes to grammar!

Pump up your vocabulary artificially —  In the same way that athletes who use performance enhancing drugs usually get found out, college applicants who use performance enhancing software are pretty easy to spot. Admissions officers know when you’re simply clicking on words and phrases in Microsoft Word and exchanging them for a fancier-looking synonym. Don’t do this! Keep it natural. There’s nothing more transparent and off-putting than someone that finds it imperative to inflate every term in a given expression . After all, you don’t want to appear supercilious . A good rule of thumb for vocab in college essays is that if you wouldn’t use a given word in a conversation (even with a teacher or an an academic setting), then you probably shouldn’t use it in your essay.

Be too colloquial —  This may or may not go without saying, but you obviously shouldn’t get too casual in your essay. Avoid slang words, curse words, misspellings, or jargon that could be easily misunderstood.

Plagiarize —  This one should also go without saying, but we figure we may as well say it anyways. If you plagiarize, chances are that eventually you’ll be found out, and any admission that results from your plagiarized essay will be rescinded! Colleges want to hear your own original thoughts.

While there is no perfect way to write a college essay, hopefully these tips have shed some light onto the subject. When in doubt, remember that this little 650 word piece of writing should be a reflection of who you are as a person! Think about a sentence or two takeaway that you would want a reader to have after reading it and try to convey that throughout the essay. It may seem scary at first, but in the end, writing is a powerful skill that can enrich your life, and tone is a very powerful tool that can be used to your benefit.

For more information about college essays, check out the following blog posts:

Application Ethics: The Importance of Writing Your Own Personal Essay

Whom Should I Ask for Help with My College Essay?

How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018

What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

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A piece’s writing style can help you figure out what kind of writing it is, what its purpose is, and how the author’s voice is unique. With so many different types of writing, you may think it’s difficult to figure out the specific writing style of a piece or you'll need to search through a long list of writing styles.

However, there are actually just four main types of writing styles, and together they cover practically all the writing you see, from textbooks to novels, to billboards and more.  Whether you’re studying writing styles for class or trying to develop your own writing style and looking for information, we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we explain the four styles of writing, provide examples for each one, go over the one thing you need to know to identify writing style, and give tips to help you develop your own unique style of writing.

The 4 Types of Writing

There are four main different styles of writing. We discuss each of them below, list where you’re likely to see them, and include an example so you can see for yourself what each of the writing styles looks like.

Writers who use the narrative style are telling a story with a plot and characters. It’s the most common writing style for fiction, although nonfiction can also be narrative writing as long as its focus is on characters, what they do, and what happens to them.

Common Places You’d See Narrative Writing

  • Biography or autobiography
  • Short stories
  • Journals or diaries

“We had luncheon in the dining-room, darkened too against the heat, and drank down nervous gayety with the cold ale. ‘What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?’ cried Daisy, ‘and the day after that, and the next thirty years?’    ‘Don’t be morbid,’ Jordan said. ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’ ‘But it’s so hot,’ insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, ‘and everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!’ - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

You can quickly tell that this passage from the novel The Great Gatsby is an example of narrative writing because it has the two key traits: characters and a plot. The group is discussing eating and drinking while trying to decide what to do for the rest of the day.

As in this example, narrative writing often has extended dialogue scenes since the dialogue is used to move the plot along and give readers greater insight into the characters.

Writers use the expository style when they are trying to explain a concept. Expository writing is fact-based and doesn’t include the author’s opinions or background. It’s basically giving facts from the writer to the reader.

Common Places You’d See Expository Writing

  • Newspaper articles
  • Academic journals
  • Business memos
  • Manuals for electronics
  • How-to books and articles

“The 1995/1996 reintroduction of gray wolves (Canis lupus) into Yellowstone National Park after a 70 year absence has allowed for studies of tri-trophic cascades involving wolves, elk (Cervus elaphus), and plant species such as aspen (Populus tremuloides), cottonwoods (Populus spp.), and willows (Salix spp.). To investigate the status of this cascade, in September of 2010 we repeated an earlier survey of aspen and measured browsing and heights of young aspen in 97 stands along four streams in the Lamar River catchment of the park’s northern winter range. We found that browsing on the five tallest young aspen in each stand decreased from 100% of all measured leaders in 1998 to means of <25% in the uplands and <20% in riparian areas by 2010. Correspondingly, aspen recruitment (i.e., growth of seedlings/sprouts above the browse level of ungulates) increased as browsing decreased over time in these same stands.” -”Trophic cascades in Yellowstone: The first 15 years after wolf reintroduction” by William J. Ripple and Robert L. Beschta

This abstract from an academic journal article is clearly expository because it only focuses on facts. The authors aren’t giving their opinion of wolves of Yellowstone, they’re not telling a story about the wolves, and the only descriptions are number of trees, streams, etc. so readers can understand the study better.

Because expository writing is focused on facts, without any unnecessary details or stories, the writing can sometimes feel dense and dry to read.

Descriptive

Descriptive writing is, as you may guess, when the author describes something. The writer could be describing a place, person, or an object, but descriptive writing will always include lots of details so the reader can get a clear and complete idea of what is being written about.

Common Places You’d See Descriptive Writing

  • Fiction passages that describe something

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or eat: it was a hobbit hole and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted...” - The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the opening passage of the novel The Hobbit . While The Hobbit is primarily an example of narrative writing, since it explores the adventures of the hobbit and his companions, this scene is definitely descriptive. There is no plot or action going on in this passage; the point is to explain to readers exactly what the hobbit’s home looks like so they can get a clear picture of it while they read. There are lots of details, including the color of the door and exactly where the doorknob is placed.

You won’t often find long pieces of writing that are purely descriptive writing, since they’d be pretty boring to read (nothing would happen in them), instead many pieces of writing, including The Hobbit , will primarily be one of the other writing styles with some descriptive writing passages scattered throughout.

When you’re trying to persuade the reader to think a certain way or do a certain thing, you’ll use persuasive writing to try to convince them.  Your end goal could be to get the reader to purchase something you’re selling, give you a job, give an acquaintance of yours a job, or simply agree with your opinion on a topic.

Common Places You’d See Persuasive Writing

  • Advertisements
  • Cover letters
  • Opinion articles/letters to the editor
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Reviews of books/movies/restaurants etc.
  • Letter to a politician

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ - “This was their finest hour” by Winston Churchill

In this excerpt from his famous “Their finest hour” speech, Prime Minister Winston Churchill is clearing trying to convince his audience to see his viewpoint, and he lays out the actions he thinks they should take. In this case, Churchill is speaking to the House of Commons (knowing many other British people would also hear the speech), and he’s trying to prepare the British for the coming war and convince them how important it is to fight.

He emphasizes how important the fight will be (“Upon this battle depends the survival of the Christian civilization.” and clearly spells out what he thinks his audience should do (“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties…”).

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Common Writing Styles to Know

Each of the four main types of writing styles has multiple subsets of styles within it. Here are nine of the most common and important types of writing you’ll see.

Narrative Writing

Character voice.

Character voice is a common writing style in novels. Instead of having an unknown narrator, the audience knows who is telling the story. This first-person narrator can help the reader relate more both to the narrator and the storyline since knowing who is telling a story can help the reader feel more connected to it. Sometimes the narrator is completely truthful in telling what happens, while other times they are an unreliable narrator and will mislead or outright lie to readers to make themselves look better. 

To Kill a Mockingbird (Scout is the narrator) and The Hunger Games (Katniss is the narrator) are two examples of this writing style.

Stream-of-Consciousness

This writing style attempts to emulate the thought process of the character. Instead of only writing about what the character says or does, stream-of-consciousness will include all or most of the characters thoughts, even if they jump from one topic to another randomly or include incomplete thoughts.

For example, rather than writing “I decided to take a walk to the ice cream shop,” an author using the stream-of-consciousness writing style could write, “It’s pretty hot out, and I feel like I should eat something, but I’m not really that hungry. I wonder if we have leftovers of the burgers Mom made last night? Is Mom staying late at work tonight? I can’t remember if she said. Ice cream would be a good choice, and not too filling. I can’t drive there though because my car is still in for repairs. Why is the repair shop taking so long? I should have listened when David said to check for reviews online before choosing a place. I should text David later to see how he is. He’ll think I’m mad at him if I don’t. I guess I’ll just have to walk to the shop.”

James Joyce and William Faulkner are two of the most well-known writers to have regularly used the  stream-of-consciousness writing style.

Epistolary writing uses a series of documents, such as letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, or even text messages to tell a story. They don’t have a narrator, there’s just whoever purportedly gathered the documents together. This writing style can provide different points of view because a different person can be the author of each document.

Well-known examples of epistolary writing include the novels Dracula  (written as a series of letters, newspaper articles, and diary entries) and Frankenstein (written as a series of letters).

Expository Writing

You’ll find this style in textbooks or academic journal articles. It’ll focus on teaching a topic or discussing an experiment,  be heavy on facts, and include any sources it cited to get the information. Academic writing often assumes some previous knowledge of the topic and is more focused on providing information than being entertaining, which can make it difficult to read and understand at times.

Business writing refers to the writing done in a workplace. It can include reports, memos, and press releases. Business writing typically has a formal tone and standard formatting rules. Because employees are presumably very busy at work, business writing is very concise and to the point, without any additional flourishes intended to make the writing more interesting.

You’ll see this writing style most commonly in newspaper articles. It focuses on giving the facts in a concise, clear, and easy-to-understand way. Journalists often try to balance covering all the key facts, keeping their articles brief, and making the audience interested in the story.

This writing style is used to give information to people in a specific field, such as an explanation of a new computer programming system to people who work in software, a description of how to install pipes within a house for plumbers, or a guide to new gene modifications for microbiologists.

Technical writing is highly specialized for a certain occupational field. It assumes a high level of knowledge on the topic, and it focuses on sharing large amounts of information with the reader. If you’re not in that field, technical writing can be nearly impossible to understand because of the jargon and references to topics and facts you likely don’t know.

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Descriptive Writing

Poetry is one of the most challenging styles of writing to define since it can come in many forms. In general, poems use rhythmic language and careful word choice to express an idea. A poem can be an example of descriptive writing or narrative writing, depending on whether it’s describing something or telling a story. Poetry doesn’t need to rhyme, and it often won’t follow standard grammatical or structural rules. Line breaks can, and often do, occur in the middle of sentences.

Persuasive Writing

Copywriting.

Copywriting is writing that is done for advertising or marketing purposes. It’s attempting to get the reader to buy whatever the writer is trying to sell. Examples of copywriting include catalogs, billboards, ads in newspapers or magazines, and social media ads.

In an attempt to get the reader to spend their money, copywriters may use techniques such as descriptive language (“This vanilla was harvested from the lush and exotic island of Madagascar"), exciting language (Stop what you’re doing and learn about this new product that will transform your life!”) and exaggeration (“This is the best cup of coffee you will ever taste!”).

Opinion 

People write opinion pieces for the purpose of stating their beliefs on a certain topic and to try to get readers to agree with them. You can see opinion pieces in newspaper opinion sections, certain blog posts, and some social media posts. The quality of opinion writing can vary widely. Some papers or sites will only publish opinion pieces if all the facts in them can be backed up by evidence, but other opinion pieces, especially those that are self-published online, don't go through any fact-checking process and can include inaccuracies and misinformation.

What If You’re Unsure of a Work’s Writing Style?

If you’re reading a piece of writing and are unsure of its main writing style, how can you figure which style it is? The best method is to think about what the purpose or main idea of the writing is. Each of the four main writing styles has a specific purpose:

  • Descriptive: to describe things
  • Expository: to give facts
  • Narrative: to tell a story
  • Persuasive: to convince the reader of something

Here’s an example of a passage with a somewhat ambiguous writing style:

It can be tricky to determine the writing style of many poems since poetry is so varied and can fit many styles. For this poem, you might at first think it has a narrative writing style, since it begins with a narrator mentioning a walk he took after church. Character + plot = narrative writing style, right?

Before you decide, you need to read the entire passage. Once you do, it’ll become clear that there really isn’t much narrative. There’s a narrator, and he’s taking a walk to get a birch from another man, but that’s about all we have for character development and plot. We don’t know anything about the narrator or his friend’s personality, what’s going to happen next, what his motivations are, etc.

The poem doesn’t devote any space to that, instead, the majority of the lines are spent describing the scene. The narrator mentions the heat, scent of sap, the sound of frogs, what the ground is like, etc. It’s clear that, since the majority of the piece is dedicated to describing the scene, this is an example of descriptive writing.

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How Can You Develop Your Own Writing Style?

A distinctive writing style is one of the hallmarks of a good writer, but how can you develop your own? Below are four tips to follow.

Read Many Different Styles of Writing

If you don’t read lots of different kinds of writing, you won’t be able to write in those styles, so before you try to get your own writing style, read different writing styles than what you’re used to.  This doesn’t mean that, if you mostly read novels, you suddenly need to shift to reading computer manuals. Instead, you can try to read novels that use unreliable narrators, stream-of-consciousness writing, etc.

The more you read, the more writing styles you’ll be exposed to, and the easier it’ll be able to combine some of those into your own writing style.

Consider Combining Multiple Types of Writing Styles

There’s no rule that you can only use one style for a piece of writing. In fact, many longer works will include multiple styles. A novel may be primarily narrative, but it can also contain highly descriptive passages as well as expository parts when the author wants the readers to understand a new concept.

However, make sure you don’t jump around too much. A paper or book that goes from dense academic text to impassioned plea for a cause to a story about your childhood and back again will confuse readers and make it difficult for them to understand the point you’re trying to make.

Find a Balance Between Comfort and Boundary-Pushing

You should write in a style that feels natural to you, since that will be what comes most easily and what feels most authentic to the reader. An academic who never ventures outside the city trying to write a book from the perspective of a weathered, unschooled cowboy may end up with writing that seems fake and forced.

A great way to change up your writing and see where it can be improved is to rewrite certain parts in a new writing style.  If you’ve been writing a novel with narrative voice, change a few scenes to stream-of-consciousness, then think about how it felt to be using that style and if you think it improved your writing or gave you any new ideas. If you’re worried that some writing you did is dull and lacking depth, add in a few passages that are purely descriptive and see if they help bring the writing to life.

You don’t always need to do this, and you don’t need to keep the new additions in what you wrote, but trying new things will help you get a better idea of what you want your own style to be like.

The best way to develop your own writing style is to expose yourself to numerous types of writing, both through reading and writing. As you come into contact with more writing styles and try them out for yourself, you’ll naturally begin to develop a writing style that you feel comfortable with.

Summary: The 4 Different Styles of Writing

There are four main writing styles, and each has a different purpose:

If you’re struggling to figure out the writing style of a piece, ask yourself what its purpose is and why the author wants you to read it.

To develop your own writing style, you should:

  • Read widely
  • Consider mixing styles
  • Balance writing what you know and trying new things

What's Next?

Literary devices are also an important part of understanding writing styles. Learn the 24 literary devices you must know by reading our guide on literary devices.

Writing a research paper for school but not sure what to write about?   Our guide to research paper topics has over 100 topics in ten categories so you can be sure to find the perfect topic for you. 

Are you reading  The Great Gatsby for class or even just for fun?  Then you'll definitely want to check out our expert guides on the biggest themes in this classic book, from love and relationships to money and materialism .

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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    When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a source or collection of sources, you will have the chance to wrestle with some of the

  17. 3 Tricks to Figure out the Author's Tone

    It's very different from the author's purpose! The tone of the article, essay, story, poem, novel, screenplay, or any other written work can be described in many ways. The author's tone can be witty, dreary, warm, playful, outraged, neutral, polished, wistful, reserved, and on and on. Basically, if there's an attitude out there, an author can ...

  18. How to Identify Tone in an Essay

    More specifically, in order to identify the tone, the reader should analyze the essay's diction. The writer creates the essay using particular words. The writer's choice of words is called diction (see References 1 and 2). The use, the arrangement and the meaning of these words creates the essay's tone (see Reference 2).

  19. Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice

    Style. Style is the way in which something is written, as opposed to the meaning of what is written. In writing, however, the two are very closely linked. As the package for the meaning of the text, style influences the reader's impression of the information itself. Style includes diction and tone. The main goal in considering style is to ...

  20. What is the appropriate tone for a college essay?

    One of the most important aspects of tone in writing to discuss is the fact that small details can make a huge difference. Think about the example above: "Yes, it's totally fine! I understand and I'm not upset and all.". "Yeah. It's totally fine. I understand. I'm not upset at all.".

  21. Understanding the 4 Writing Styles: How to Identify and Use Them

    Descriptive: to describe things. Expository: to give facts. Narrative: to tell a story. Persuasive: to convince the reader of something. If you're struggling to figure out the writing style of a piece, ask yourself what its purpose is and why the author wants you to read it.