What Is Tone in Writing?
Tone is commonly referred to as the author's “attitude” toward the topic and is expressed through through the writer's choice of words and sentence structure. Is a work academic, angry, or upbeat and fun? The tone of a piece will affect how the reader responds, so using it effectively can make your writing more powerful.
Establishing Tone in Your Writing
When establishing tone for your writing, the genre is the first thing to consider. The tone of an academic essay would be formal with sophisticated sentence structures. But a blog post would be less formal, perhaps significantly so depending on the topic. And you wouldn't approach a thriller, which should be light on description and heavy on action, the same way you would a literary novel, where the use of language is an important element of the genre.
Most writers have established the genre of their piece early on. So once you decide what you intend to write, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is my audience?
- Why am I writing this piece?
- What am I looking to accomplish with it? How do I want my audience to react?
Improving Your Writing's Tone
While you should keep your piece's tone in mind as you work, it can be further refined in the revision stages. Here are a few easy ways to improve the tone of your writing:
1. Maintain Your Tone Consistently Throughout
While using different tones for different topics is necessary, shifting tones within the course of a single work can be confusing. Read your writing looking for places where the tone shifts and revise accordingly.
2. Cut, Cut, Cut
Do you have long wordy passages in a blog post or thriller novel? Do you have minimally relevant rants that will disrupt the tone and lead your reader astray? Now is the time to remove these passages. It doesn't matter how well written they are. If they do not fit the tone of the work, they don't belong there.
3. Recognize Major Tone Problems
Depending on your genre and topic, there are some tones that don't belong, and the piece should be rewritten. For instance, does anyone want to read a blog post with a whiney “woe is me—I've been wronged” tone throughout? Of course not. It offers no benefit to the audience. At this point, you need to reconsider your topic and what you are trying to say about it and rewrite the piece entirely.
So as you proceed with your writing, think carefully about the tone of your work.