Posted by: Kathy Temean | September 26, 2011

Tips for Writing Tone

First I think it would be good to go over the difference between tone and voice?

Tone reflects the mood or attitude of the writing. Tone usually refers to all the ways in which a voice may enrich or modify the meanings of spoken words. There are many varieties of tones possible in speech. Tone can be condescending, or whining, or aggressiveness. We can be comforted by tones that are sympathetic or soothing or up lifted by the tone of a story.

Robert L Bacon says, “Voice is you. Should you and another person write a book about the identical topic, your story will reflect your way of telling the tale via words and syntax that differ from what the other writer has used. So when you write a book, and the critics proclaim a fantastic new voice has roared onto the scene, these pundits are talking specifically about you, because you are the voice of your writing. And a unique voice indeed.”

Here are some things you can use to help with tone.

Find a book or two that reflects the tone you are trying to achieve with your book. Before you start writing spend 15 or 20 minutes reading a passage in one of those books. This should help you set the tone with what you are writing.

Examine each sentence of that passage, considering the rhythm and word choices. Is there something you can make your own? Don’t copy. Use it to stir up your creative juices.

Look at your own work-in-progress. Find a paragraph that sounds exactly the way you want to sound for this book. Print it out and tape it to your computer, so that it’s always in front of you.

Try moving sentences around. Does that change the tone? Does it make it better?

Starts and finishes are especially important to tone. Try moving some of your best sentences, the ones with energy and just the right tone, up to the top of your document. Could your book start with one of those great sentences? Experiment. Moving strong sentences to the conclusion of your book may create a more cohesive ending.

Give it a try.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Hmmmm…and I was under the impression that it was the “voice” that set the “tone!” I’m SO confused lol


  2. This is really great information!

    I totally get where you’re coming from…

    I find it even applies to everyday life, especially with regard to short blips on social networking sites (FB, Twitter -which I have yet to master!- & texting…)

    I often worry that my tone is being misinterpreted, (especially since I’m so bad at expressing myself verbally!) so I tend to write too much in areas that are intended for short exchanges.

    Tone, for me, is like the literary version of the acronyms & smiley faces we use to quickly communicate, and our chosen words are the voice…


    • oooooo…Eileen, I love that simile! That helps me with the difference between voice and tone 🙂 Thank you for that 🙂


      • Glad you like it Donna! 😉


      • (Hmmm…not sure why my other handle popped up~I must have registered twice–duh! But it’s Eileen responding~)


  3. thanks for all of these wonderful resources. Appreciate them!


    • Carol,

      Thanks for the note. I try my best.



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