Understanding the Tone and Voice of Your Message

Understanding the Tone and Voice of Your Message
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  • 0:03 Message Attitude
  • 0:40 Voice
  • 2:16 Tone
  • 7:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
Understanding the tone and voice of your message is critical to the overall presentation of your written communication. In business, the overall tone should be professional and courteous regardless of whether the message is positive or negative.

Message Attitude

The selection of word choice and sentence style can have a dramatic effect on a message. In the workplace, written correspondence should always have the most professional voice and tone in order to have the message well received. This means that the words chosen should be respectful, cordial and genial. The voice of a message is how a writer's personality is reflected through written words. Tone is the author's attitude towards the reader of the message. We are heading inside the Lights, Camera, Drama Company to use their email communications as lessons in how to use voice and tone to communicate.


Megan works as a stage director for Lights, Camera, Drama. She has two different managers who she reports to on a daily basis. Tony is all business and sends his emails with precise instructions and the lack of any individuality. Vinnie is very outgoing and treats Megan as a friend at work. Both managers are assigning Megan the same task, but each lent their own personality, or voice, to the message.

Remember that the voice of a message is how a writer's personality is reflected through written words, or their unique way of expressing themselves. An individual creates their own voice, or style of writing, to capture a reader's attention. There are writers who use more flowing or colorful language, while others write with very sparse word choices.

Let's take a look at two separate emails Megan received regarding the same job assignment. The first email was from manager Tony. His personality is dry, even-tempered and work-obsessed. You can see in the email that he is only concerned with sticking to the schedule: 'Please continue to work with the students to make sure they have all of the choreography and lines down for the dress rehearsal tomorrow.'

The second email was from Vinnie. His personality is outgoing, artistic, caring and free-spirited. He only cares about the actors learning and having fun - not about the bottom line. His email is full of motivational thoughts and written casually: 'Megan, take a deep breath, and feel your students' energy. Help them reach their full potential for the dress rehearsal, and you will all rock.'

Let's now take a look at how tone is used to convey a message.


The second key element of communicating a message is the tone, or author's attitude towards the reader of the message. Examples of tone include: confident, arrogant, racist, humorous, emotional, intimate, condescending and serious. Tone is used in conjunction with voice to create the mood and feel of a message.

There are two supportive pieces that help create tone: diction and imagery. Diction is the word choice used in a message to convey an idea. Every writer chooses certain words to convey a meaning, mood or attitude. For example, if Megan was describing one of her employees, she could call the person a worker, actor or artist. Each word conjures up a different tone, and the most complimentary would be the choice of the word artist.

The second supportive piece of creating a tone is imagery, which is the picture a writer can create with their words to appeal to all of the reader's senses. The writer can use figures of speech to create vivid descriptions that appeal to the reader such as juicy, luscious, decomposing, etc. When Megan was trying to create a summary of the new play, Robots & Dolls, she wanted to create a dark tone. She used words such as desolate, darkening, apocalyptic and terrifying.

In order to choose the correct tone for a message, it is important to review three areas. Megan is preparing to send out an email to her staff about the last night of practice.

Purpose of the Message

The writer needs to decide why they are creating the message. Is it to offer a reminder, congratulations or bad news such as a layoff? Once a writer determines the purpose, say to offer congratulations, they can then start to create a happy, positive tone. Megan's purpose is to remind her actors about the final rehearsal, so she will want the email to have an authoritative, professional tone.


The writer next needs to decide who should be receiving the message. Is it the entire company, the legal team or is it feedback to just one individual? Megan needs to inform the behind-the-scenes help, the producers and the actors about something important, so she will keep the tone serious.

Conveying of Message

In what way do you want to communicate the message? Megan knows that she needs to portray herself as the one in charge and command respect, so she keeps her email serious in tone and labels it high priority.

Positive vs. Negative

Megan's play has now completed its first week of performances at the theater. She has received two reviews in her email from local newspapers. Let's read the reviews and try to figure out the tone.

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