Many academic writers mistake a scholarly tone for dull, boring language or a mixture of jargon and multisyllabic, "intelligent-sounding" words.Academic writing, however, does not need to be complicated nor lacking in style (APA, 2010, section 3.07); instead, it can be both engaging and clear. This means that everything you say must be unbiased, scholarly, and supported by evidence. These casual expressions may be appropriate in personal emails, but they are inappropriate in research papers. The second is revised to keep a formal tone: Informal: When I got my students to think science was wicked cool, their test scores went through the roof!To see how these 4 dimensions of tone can be varied to create different effects, let’s consider a small piece of copy that almost every content team has to consider at some point — an error message.
In this case, our message is, “An error has occurred.” Our tone will be how we communicate that message.
First, let’s try a serious, formal, respectful, and matter-of-fact error message. Now we’ve taken the error message’s tone to casual and enthusiastic.
In an online survey of 50 American respondents, we asked users to rate the friendliness and formality of each sample on 5-point Likert scales.
The actual differences in the ratings were rather small, around 0.5–1 point on a 5-point scale.
Despite the importance of tone, advice about it tends to be vague: “Be consistent. Be unique.” So, we wondered, what are the broader qualities that make up a tone?
Here we describe a framework of 4 dimensions that can be used to analyze or plan a site’s tone of voice.
The tone of any piece of content can be analyzed along 4 dimensions: humor, formality, respectfulness, and enthusiasm.
In literature, the tone of voice refers to the author’s feelings towards the subject, as expressed through the writing itself.
Then we conducted qualitative usability testing and online surveys, measuring the impact of those tone qualities on users.
A quick Google search for “tone-of-voice words” will surface lists of hundreds of words used to describe literary tones.