Writing Tones: Time to Tune the Tone

Writing Tones: Time to Tune the Tone

The first thing you might think about when it comes to tone is a musical vocal and its strength. Whether it be falsetto or soprano, when I think about tone- I think opera. However, believe it or not, tone also has to do with writing as well. So, what are writing tones and how are they used? Luckily, you have come to the right place for those answers so let’s not waste any time!

What are Writing Tones?

When you are upset about something- your attitude and voice tend to show it. Right? The same can be said about your attitude if you finished that important project three days ahead of time or three days late. Depending on the outcome, I am sure your tone will differ if you had to explain to your boss in writing what happened or why it did not happen. Tone is simply the attitude or emotion of the author or writer towards the subject and the reader. Tones help to deliver facts and opinions with a personal viewpoint.

Many times in writing- the writing voice is confused with the writing tone and although the two are many times used interchangeably they are very different. No worries though, we will break through those barriers and break down the difference between the two. Knowing the difference is important whether you are writing a blog, a novel, or a poem. Above all, no matter what type of writing you are into- you want to communicate in your writings in a way that will resonate properly with the readers of those works.

Voice vs. Tone

Your writing voice is a reflection of who you are. In other words, it is your personality and character traits. Your writing voice is simply what you say. Your voice will- let’s say… season everything that you write- it is your personal stamp on everything you produce. Writing tones on the other hand is a reflection of your attitude and how you say something in your writings. Your tone is your stance on a subject matter.

Let’s take for instance that the above example of that project that was done on time. What would you say to your boss? “Mrs. Jones, I am pleased to say that I have that project finished a few days ahead of time. I appreciate your confidence in me and entrusting in me that I could deliver. Please keep me in mind for any future projects, I would be more than honored to take on more responsibilities.

Based on this correspondence- we can see that the employee is a very polite and grateful individual. This is a reflection of who she is and it resonates well through her writing based on what she said. This is her voice and if you met her in person, she would probably come across the same way. Her tone- or her attitude resonates as courageous and sincere. This is seen in how her correspondence was written.

Tone Examples

Take a minute for a moment and imagine all the human emotions. As you can see this list is ongoing! With that said, as many emotions that there are- there are just about the same number of “tones” to match. However, below I have put a list together of some of the most common writing tones- which coincides with human emotions.

  • Optimistic
  • Pessimistic
  • Informal
  • Formal
  • Sad
  • Happy
  • Frustrated
  • Sincere
  • Joyful
  • Serious
  • Fearful
  • Humorous
  • Hypocritical
  • Compassion
  • Hopeful
  • Courage
  • Loneliness
  • Love
  • Condescending
  • Sarcastic

When writing your poem, blog piece, or novel- the tone may vary between characters, scenes, and situations, but the overall tone must stay consistent to not confuse the reader. However, you want to make sure to keep your message on track throughout your work.

Examples of Writing Tones in Literature

The well-known masterpiece, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens is a great example of how tone is portrayed in literature and on the big screen. From scene to scene and character to character the tone changes- yet the overall tone of the story remains the same which is love and compassion.

As we all know- Scrooge, who was a banker, made a living by using his riches to lend the less fortunate money and then charged high-interest rates on those loans. Ebenezer’s tone throughout the piece was portrayed as grumpy, stingy, condescending, hateful, and short-tempered. In other words, the lonely businessman had little to no compassion or love. At least until he was visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future.

The exchange between Ebenezer and Bob Cratchit- Scrooge’s timid clerk shows this best.

  • Bob Cratchit: Mr. Scrooge?
  • Scrooge: I’m busy.
  • Bob Cratchit: Well, it’s about Mr. Marley sir! He’s dying.
  • Scrooge: Well, what do you want me to do about it? If he’s dying he’s dying.

The exchange shows strikingly different tones- which exist among the many characters in this piece. The example shows that Ebenezer Scrooge has no compassion or sympathy whatsoever and that tone stayed true throughout the movie for the most part. However, this exchange also shows the obvious differing writing tones based on Bob’s exchange.

While Scrooge was rude and heartless- Bob was polite and compassionate. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a great example of how writing tones are used in literature. From Scrooge to Bob Cratchit to the charity collectors that asked Ebenezer for a donation- all the way to Tiny Tim. Every character’s tone was different but again- the overall tone of the literature stayed the same- love and compassion.

Know Your Audience

If your reader matters to you then your audience matters. And your readers do matter, right? Simply put- your audience is the readers of your work, so it is important- if not vital that you know the appropriate tone for the audience that you are writing for.

Writing tones will differ depending on the audience. For example, if you are the author of a children’s book it is safe to say that the vocabulary and terminology will differ from adult fiction. As you can see- it is important that your tone or simply- your attitude is conveyed to your audience in a way that is intended.

Selecting the right tone will come with practice if this is new to you. Just like Kevin Hart knows his audience and what attitude and emotion is needed to convey his messages humorously- the same goes for writers. Once you know what your readers want and are expecting from you the more you will know how and what to deliver.


In conclusion, we have learned a lot about writing tones and how they are used. The writer’s tone will reflect his or her mood as the story is delivered to their audience. However, the voice of the writer is equally as important because it delivers a window into who the writer is and shows the personality of that writer. If you have attitude and emotion then you have tone. The only thing that is left to do is tune it to your specific needs.