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9 Types of Tone in Writing

Hand writing 360 degrees Content with marker business concept

Hand writing 360 degrees Content with marker business concept

What is tone when it comes to writing?

It’s a simple question, but the answer can be rather complicated. In basic terms, tone usually refers to how a writer uses certain words in a specific way to convey non-verbal observations about specific subjects. Not only does tone help to deliver facts, but it delivers them with an attitude. With emotion. With a personal perspective.

Tone is sometimes used interchangeably with the voice of the author. They are very different. A writer’s voice is a perspective of their personality. The tone of a writer conveys their attitude about what is being writing about. If tone is combined with voice, then this will create a specific writing style that can be attributed to that writer.

There Are 9 Basic Types of Tone in Writing

Any emotion, any attitude, and any perspective can lay the foundation for a specific tone in writing. If you can come up with an adjective, then that can be a tone. This means if you look at tone with specificity, there is an infinite number that can be used.

That makes it a little difficult to begin developing your personal tone as a writing skill, so those infinite tones have been categorized into 9 different types. Let’s take a look at them in some detail.

1. Joyful: This tone in writing focuses on the positive emotions that are experienced in the moment of an action. If you eat something you like, then you feel joy. When you experience reciprocal love, you feel joy. Writers use this tone to create relationship-building experiences between their readers and their characters.

2. Serious: This tone in writing creates a level of suspense within the reader. It increases their focus because the concepts being offered are important.

3. Humorous: Being funny does more than make people laugh. It also makes them begin to think about difficult concepts in a way that feels safe. This tone in writing is often intended to draw the reader into a story or narrative so they can engage with certain facts or opinions the author feels are important to share.

4. Sad: Sadness is a very real part of the human condition. In many ways, our saddest days define who we are as people. When incorporated as a tone in writing, the reader become sympathetic with the characters or the author and this empathy will keep them engaged with the narrative.

5. Formal: This tone in writing is often seen from an academic standpoint. It requires structured language, higher reading skills, and presents more facts that can be proven than the opinions of the writer.

6. Informal: The goal of this content is to have an informal tone. It’s conversational, but still conveys a certain sense of expertise within the subject material.

7. Optimistic: There’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world today. Yet there is also a belief that the world can and will be a better place one day if we’re willing to work for it. This would be an example of an optimistic tone.

8. Pessimistic: When there’s a lot of bad stuff going on in the world, it can feel like that bad stuff will only get worse. That kind of tone would be an example of being pessimistic. Pessimism is not realism. Being pessimistic means having a belief that something will never get better, even if the facts may seem to indicate otherwise.

9. Horror: This tone of voice is threatening in nature. It speaks to the core fears that people have and forces them to confront those fears.

Now there may be 9 basic types of tone in writing, but that doesn’t mean a writer is limited to using just one tone as they compose something. It is possible to use all of these tones in some way in specific instances. Having every character in a story be overly optimistic isn’t realistic. Even the most optimistic of people feel pessimistic from time to tome.

Yet there must also be an overall tone to the book that is reflective of the attitude a writer has to the overall story arc that is being offered. Mixing tones on the overall theme creates confusion because it changes the perspective.

This is why it is important to know the types of tone in writing and how they relate to the voice being used. With the right style, it becomes easier to communicate the key points a writer is trying to make to the reader.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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