Tone of Voice - the Ultimate Content Power Tool
Tone of voice is a powerful tool used when setting the stage for a piece of writing. Tone is also an attitude, and a clear way to establish a relationship between the author and the reader. Ultimately, tone is what sets apart a good writer from a great writer, and can transform the way an audience remembers your content. So how can you ensure that your message gets across as intended? Read on to see how the use of some basic questions can help steer your tone in a direction to maximize content impact and reach.
Leave Your Message After the... Tone?
Tone cannot be overlooked when writing, no matter the choice of content. The tone of a written message affects the reader in the same way tone of voice affects a listener. If you have ever been misunderstood by someone else not based on what you said, but how you said it, be assured that the same can happen with the written word. Take this example put out by Grammerly:
“If your boss sent you a message that said, ‘Do you have a minute to talk?’ you might think, ‘Oh no, what’s wrong?’. But if she rephrased it as, ‘Got time to chat real quick?’ you might be less alarmed. There isn’t a negative force lurking in the background. That contrast is because of tone.”
Who is My Intended Audience?
Every reader matters. And even though you may want to impress them with your creative sentences and eccentric word choices, most people will not appreciate it. Keep it simple, straightforward, clean and friendly, just like a real conversation. If the reader needs a dictionary to get through a sentence, you can bet they won’t be sticking around long enough to read the rest of the paragraph.
Of course, you should always keep your audience and their knowledge in mind when creating content. Will it be a personal blog post? If so, your audience is probably wide, or general. Perhaps you are selling a new product within a specific market segment. If so, you can bet your audience is of a medium size, and is at least partially knowledgeable regarding the subject. But what about a troubleshooting guide for your headless commerce website? You guessed it - this audience will most likely be narrow and for experts. Update language and content accordingly!
How Formal Do I Want to Be?
There are three basic choices when it comes to formality. Keep them in mind when writing content and be sure to stay consistent throughout:
Informal: having a relaxed, friendly, or unofficial style, suitable for everyday language and conversation. Often written in the first person and includes shorter sentences, emotions, contractions, slang and abbreviations.
Neutral: having a matter of fact approach to written content. Often absent of positive or negative language as it is based not on feelings or opinions, but facts. Note that neutral does not necessarily mean objective.
Formal: having regard for convention or etiquette, suitable for official addresses, important occasions or academic audiences. Often written in the third person, and includes thorough, complex sentences, a limited range of emotions, and opinions with supporting arguments that are introduced, elaborated and concluded.
What is My Goal?
The tone you decide to write in will ultimately help you achieve your content goals. Have you thought about the intent behind your piece? Is it to inform? Describe? Convince? Engage? Provoke? What about tell a story? The purpose of your written work should be clear to those who will read it, and relatively easy for your audience to digest and take away.
Am I Being Consistent?
A consistent tone of voice is a crucial part of content writing for any company. Mainly, it keeps you on-brand and congruent in your values and messaging. But perhaps more importantly, in a world where content is not only plentiful but also shared at a massive scale, it makes yours easier to recognize, trustworthy, and familiar. This comfort with consumers, no matter your product, carries significant weight in the end when trying to establish a global verbal identity.
We’ve now covered audience, formality, purpose and consistency, but don’t forget about word choice, personal pronouns, punctuation, honesty and empathy. To ensure you’ve hit all of these important aspects, be sure to get a second opinion to double check that your goals are being detected by the reader.
Remember, there is a big difference between the tone of a written piece, and the voice. While the latter refers to what you say, tone will always be the way in which you say it. Follow the Snowball golden rule by aiming for professional positivity, and you are sure to nail a tone that will compliment your company’s content goals.