Does Your Writing Tone Match Your Actual Message? – by Michael W. Michelsen, Jr.

Does Your Writing Tone Match Your Actual Message? – by Michael W. Michelsen, Jr.

When my daughters were very young, we had a game we used to play. As they were playing in our yard or in another room, I would call out in a loud, gruff voice, “Did you both know that your daddy loves you very much?!” Obviously, my tone of voice and my message did not match, so they were confused until they would come running in and I would kiss and hug them.

The same thing is true of writing. For an effective piece of writing, a writer must make sure the tone and the message match, or the intent will be lost on the reader. During a verbal exchange, this is easy, since the tone can be conveyed with the speaker’s voice, their body language, and other methods.

Selecting tone in writing is more difficult, but if a writer learns about what they are doing, it becomes much easier. What follows is a short list of tones a writer can use in their work.

10 Writing Tones


Formal writing is most often used in business letters and similar materials. It can also be used effectively in academic writing or other professional contexts.


The informal tone is the opposite of formal tone. It is like the tone you would use when talking with a friend. This tone of writing employs tools like contractions, colloquial phrases, and more emotion.


When using an optimistic tone, hope and a positive outlook is expressed.


A worried tone can be used if the writer’s desire is to make the reader cautious, afraid, and anxious about something that is unknown.


A tone that is friendly is used when a writer wants to elicit trust in the reader. This can be used in combination with other tones such as formal or informal, but the overall purpose is to make the reader feel warmth and enthusiasm.


If a writer decides that they want to make a reader curious about something, use a curious tone. This is important when a writer wants their reader to want to know something that might be further into the article. A curious tone makes a reader want to keep reading.


If you want to sound authoritative and confident, an assertive tone is what a writer should use. It can also be used when a writer wants to encourage a reader to do something to think a certain way.


Being encouraging in tone will allow a reader to be more upbeat and receptive to your message.


If you have good news to deliver to a reader, but you want to make an introduction, use a surprise, but wait until after the initial sentence or paragraph to reveal it.


If a writer wants a reader to be cooperative in something they want to discuss, using a cooperative tone could be the key that gets you what you want.

It is important to remember that writing can employ several tones in the same communication. For example, a writer who wants to convey a business tone would probably only want to use a professional tone. On the other hand, the writer of a fund-raising letter would want to use a combination of professional, friendly, and possibly other tones as well to help loosen a giver’s purse strings.

The most important thing to remember is to use a tone that matches the mood and message you want to use. Your readers won’t be confused with the result, and will be more receptive to the information you want to convey.


Michael W. Michelsen, Jr. is a freelance writer living in a cultural wasteland commonly known as Southern California. He specializes in business and technology subjects, but is not too proud to consider virtually any subject. Readers can reach him by email, Muck Rack, or LinkedIn. Facebook does nothing but frustrate him, but if you insist, you can see his page here:


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