From a verbal standpoint, tone is generally obvious from the get-go. For instance, when your boss is in your face screaming about how you are slacking on your expense reports, their tone is incontestably angry and authoritative. On the other hand, a casual conversation with a friend is likely to be very mellow and comforting. These are common communicative observations that are much more difficult to make in text form. With that said, when carefully throughout, the proper tone for your writing can bear a perfectly engaging presence.
From a textual perspective, tone is somewhat subjective, and can even be a bit ambiguous, albeit very influential to the success of your writing. For example, if you are a marketing genius, or perhaps a do-it-yourself guru writing about a topic within your realm of expertise, then your tone might range from friendly and casual to clear and knowledgeable.
As a fitness expert with a business background providing Web content services, I have struggled finding tones for my writing. Establishing the proper tone I want often seems like an adventure and can be quite evasive at times. On some occasions it comes easy, other times it does not. If I am too stern and authoritative writing about fitness, then I will come across as a lame know-it-all – perhaps even a little pedantic. If I am too soft and casual with my business writing, then readers will likely discard the content and clients will likely think I am a pushover. It’s a constant battle.
Change Your Tone
When sitting down to write these days, I often find myself going over a million possible tone personas in my head. One of the greatest gifts for setting the tone of my writing has been the use of alternative personas. Of course, it is always good to be yourself and convey original ideas; however, it can be equally beneficial to use someone else’s voice to set the tone for your writing. It’s actually quite fun.
For example, do I want to sound more like my mother or father today? Maybe I should be blunter, like my crazy Uncle Keith?
As you can see, I generally stick to family member personas when writing. As a more relatable example, I sometimes use the persona of “Mad Men” character Donald Draper (usually for my business writing). He is a very authoritative and, quite often, blunt character. Having his voice in my head, dictating my thoughts, has been an invaluable asset on writing assignments.
Of course, the tone of your own writing may be completely different than my need for concise business writing, or authoritative, yet compassionate fitness advice. For instance, if you write an organic gardening blog or a monthly newsletter for your “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” fan site, you will likely want an entirely different voice than that of Donald Draper. To set the tone for your writing, whatever type it may be, my advice is this: Find a suitable voice. Then, use your thoughts and that persona to engulf yourself in the writing.
Jamison H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.