How Word Choice and Language Sets the Tone of Your Essay

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  • 0:07 How Words and Language…
  • 0:46 Word Choice
  • 3:04 Language
  • 4:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

In this video, we will discuss how word choice sets the tone for your essay. This includes letting the reader know if you are angry, happy or even attempting to refrain from bias. These tools bring your 'voice' into your writing.

How Words and Language Convey a Message

When it comes to writing, there is only so much punctuation can do to set the tone. It becomes the actual words we use that let people know exactly what we mean. There are also times when you have to convey a message beyond mere words to the reader. There are certain tools that we can use to bring our voice to the piece as well. To demonstrate, let's follow our new friend, Kayla, as she deals with various suitors that have asked for her hand in marriage via love letter. While she will be letting some of the guys down, let's see if we can figure out how she really feels about them through the words that she uses.

Word Choice

The words that we use can set the tone for our essay. For example, if Kayla has been sent a note asking for her hand in marriage, she must pay particular attention to how she responds. Suitor 1 may be a bit of a jerk, and Kayla wants to make it clear she isn't interested. We might see her response as something like this:

'No way, you big jerk!'

Even without the exclamation point, we can pretty much understand Kayla is not only saying 'No,' but also 'No chance, and don't come back Jack!'

Suitor 2 might also have no chance at marriage with Kayla, but she wants to let him off easily. She may respond a bit more gently but still be clear:

'Thank you so much for the wonderful proposal, but unfortunately I can't accept. I have given my heart to another.'

Here, while Kayla is kind, she also made it clear that Suitor 2 shouldn't ask for her hand again.

Now Suitor 3 is a bit tricky. While he doesn't come in first for the man of Kayla's dreams, he is a close second. So, while she has to let this suitor down, she also wants to let him down in a way that leaves the door open for the future. Her response might read something like this:

'Thank you so much for this proposal. If this were a different time, maybe my heart would allow me to say yes. However, at this time, I can't accept. Perhaps in the future the timing will be right for both of us.'

So, while the answer was no for now, Kayla did leave the door open with Suitor 3, letting him know not to completely give up hope.

Now, let's move on to Suitor 4. This lucky chap just happened to be the right guy at the right time. Kayla can give a short, sweet and to-the-point response:


Oftentimes, when we are writing an affirmative response, writing something that isn't controversial or writing something with which our audience is likely to agree, we can be a bit more brief.


When we speak of language in terms of tone, this can be considered the words we use to surround important information. For instance, sometimes we might make statements such as 'The following information is critical.' This alerts the reader that he or she should pay particularly close attention to what follows.

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