Tone in Writing: How to Use It for Getting Maximum Impact [Complete Guide (2018)]

Nailing the right tone in writing can be difficult.

But it can make the difference between gripping a reader from the start, or having them skim and leave your article without finishing it.

We’ve all been there – what seems so great yesterday just sounds flat and boring when we read it back today.

How the heck can you make your words sparkle and inspire that human connection in your readers?

Don’t give up yet.

Because there are a few little tricks you can employ to change the tone of your writing to one that will engage your readers.

Use a Human Writing Voice:

When I write, I hear a voice in my head speaking the words before they reach my keyboard.

It just happens, I don’t know how.

It helps me to realize if the words I’m writing sound natural and human, or if I’m coming out with something that sounds like Siri on a bad day.

That’s all very well for you,” I hear you say, “but what about me? How do I humanize my tone and connect with my readers?

Well, let’s look first at what a ‘human writing voice’ actually is.

Your aim when writing is to prioritize your readers.

You want to help them understand your subject, rather than impress them with your prowess.

A human tone in writing is friendly, familiar and straightforward.

Tone in Writing

Imagine having a conversation with a good friend or family member, and wanting to clarify something with them.

You (probably!) wouldn’t say “Let us summarize this discussion in order to facilitate our understanding”, you would say something like “Are we on the same page with this?”, or “Let’s go over it again, just to be sure we both understand.

The trick is matching the tone of your writing voice to the subject you’re writing about. Are your readers going to feel uplifted and encouraged by your article?

Use a cheerful and upbeat tone.

For example, if you were writing an instructional piece, you would perhaps finish with something like this:

“Why not try this technique out for yourself? Don’t worry about making mistakes, it’s something we all do – that’s how we learn. After all, if I can do this, anyone can – it just takes a bit of practice!”

Instead of this:

“This is a hard technique to master, and the chances of making mistakes are high. It took me a lot of serious and deep study and practice, and a great deal of time and dedication to reach the level of expertise I am at today.”

Do you see the difference?

OK, if you were writing an article about becoming a brain surgeon, then I would be a bit worried if you were writing a conclusion like the first example, but apart from that, if you want your readers to feel inspired, give them something that will encourage them.

If you want them to feel compassion, write in a way that makes you feel compassionate and emotional.

Run the range of human emotions in your writing, as long as they match the subject matter of the article you’re working on – try not to write in a detached way.

If you don’t feel that enthusiasm or anger, or sadness, how can you expect your readers to?

The 9 Basic Tones in Writing:

Of course, you want to develop your own writing tone, but it can be hard if you don’t know where to start.

There are 9 different types of tone that you can use in writing, and they are as follows:

  1. Joyful: This focuses on the positive emotions and good things that happen. If you use this tone, you can build relationships with your readers and inspire them.
  2. Serious: This type of writing tone can create a level of suspense in the reader, and makes them focus more because of the seriousness of the subject matter. Think of serious news stories as reported in newspapers.
  3. Humorous: Using humor draws the reader into a story or narrative, and hopefully makes them smile or reflect on their own similar experiences. It’s a positive tone, but should be used with care.
  4. Sad: We all know what sadness feels like. When it is used as a writing tone, the reader feels empathy with the author or character, which keeps them reading.
  5. Formal: Think of academic journals and papers for this tone. It requires structured language, facts rather than opinions, and is often written in the third person.
  6. Informal: The opposite of formal! This is a conversational style of writing, similar to how you would talk with a friend, but still with a sense of expertise in the subject material.
  7. Optimistic: We know that there’s a lot of dark, bad stuff going on in the world right now, but we also like to believe that the world will be better one day if we put some effort in. That is optimism!
  8. Pessimistic: Instead of believing that the world will change for the better, the pessimistic tone assures us that things will only get worse. Pessimism is not realism – it means a belief that nothing will ever get better, no matter how much we try.
  9. Horror: This tone brings to the fore all the core fears that people have, and amplifies them. By doing so, it forces people to confront their fears.

You aren’t limited to using just one of these tones at a time, but it is important that you are aware of the different types of tone in writing.

Opposite Reactions to the Same Situation:

Tone in Writing 1

People don’t always see the same situation in exactly the same way.For instance, these examples below show how there can be two different tones used in a situation depending on the writer (or character’s) viewpoint:

  • “I’m so glad that jerk was fired; now I won’t have to deal with him anymore.” Vs. “It’s terrible that Tony was let go; he was such a great colleague!”
  • “The movie was amazing! I was laughing so hard I cried!” Vs. “You can only watch infantile humor for so long before you want to punch yourself in the face.”
  • “The principal just called to say that our son was in a fight. I can’t believe he would do that.” Vs. “I’m proud of Billy for sticking up for himself. That bully had it coming.”
  • “I’m so excited that he called! I’ve been hoping to hear from him.” Vs. “Why is that weirdo calling me again after all this time?”

(These examples above came from

Everyday Tone Examples:

Formal tone examples may be seen in business letters or emails, and may read something like this:

“Thank you for your email of 17 June. In regards to the issue you wish to discuss, please could you contact us at your earliest convenience.”

An informal way of saying the same thing would be:

“Thanks for your email on 17 June. Please get in touch as soon as you can so we can talk about the problem.”

The second example feels more human, and less pompous, but there are times when a formal tone seems more correct – a letter from your attorney, for instance.

Optimistic tone may sound like:

“It’s raining again! Never mind, that means I can catch up on some chores indoors instead.”

A pessimistic, miserable person may say instead:

“It’s raining again! It always rains here, I hate it. Now I have nothing to do except stay indoors and be bored. Life sucks!”

With the right style and tone, it becomes much easier to communicate with your readers, and will leave them more likely to remember your words once they close the book or switch off their tablets.

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In this article, I have shared everything you need to know about the importance of tone in writing.

And I have also shared how to make the tone in writing right in different situations.

Now, it is your turn to take action and produce more engaging contents for your readers from the next time on ward.

Finally, please share this post with your beloved ones. They will thank you later. It takes just a few seconds.

Now if you need a little help to set your own tone in writing, or if you have any specific query regarding the same, please let me know by leaving a quick comment below.

I’d love to hear from you and answer you personally.

This was a Guest Post by Bonnie Skott

If you want to write for us, check out our Write for Us section for details.

Bonnie Skott

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