16 Aug

Tone & Voice: Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate Their Importance When It Comes To Engaging Your Readers

Woman contemplating why tone and voice matter in her writing.

The minicomputers in our hands (aka our phones) have drastically changed our lives and no stone is left unturned. Unlimited access to the world wide web has changed the way we eat, the way we shop and even the way we find and maintain personal relationships. 

Emails and text messages are now the norm for communication. In fact, recent studies have shown that only 43% of smartphone users use their phones to make actual phone calls. It’s abundantly clear that while we still have the ability to talk, people simply choose not to. 

The fact that people choose these methods of communication has stark implications for marketers. You have to avenues available to you: video or content. And as video can be harder to break into, most people opt for the written word. Now, you must learn how to rely exclusively on your copywriting skills to market your brand effectively. 

So as a business owner, how can you reach potential customers on their devices in a way they are most likely to read and respond to? By truly perfecting two often-overlooked essentials in good writing: tone and voice.

Because make no mistake about it, click-throughs, open rates, sales, and loyal customers are all a direct result of nailing tone and voice — each and every time. 

Why tone and voice are confused

Tone and voice are often used interchangeably, most often because they are so closely related in purpose. As tools, they are both are used in concert to help a brand get its message across to consumers. 

To help you clearly pinpoint the difference in tone and voice, think of your own anatomy. Your voice does not change when you speak with others, but who you speak with will determine your tone. For example, if you’re speaking to your boss, you would clearly use a different tone than if you were speaking to your best friend. 

What is tone?

Think of tone as the attitude in your written content. As you build your brand, you will repeatedly use language and words that carry a specific tone. Unlike a brand’s voice, the tone may change based on the situation or the audience. 

Is the piece an educational or informational message? The tone there may be more authoritarian, telling the reader what to do or what something means. 

Perhaps, it’s a light-hearted piece, with humor, comedy, or life lesson. This kind of piece may be less researched, but still, carry a sense of being important to whatever point is announced in the title. Maybe it’s a somber memory of a past event or historical detail? A sensitive piece requires a softer touch, with gentle words and attention to emotions that the piece evokes in readers

The key to effective marketing and connecting with customers an alignment of the message and the tone. Failure to do so can have an adverse effect on the perception of your brand. 

What is voice?

Essentially the voice of a brand is its personality, and just like humans, every personality is different. The voice of a brand is uncompromising, unique, and it encompasses all of the words used in the content produced by a particular business. Your voice can also encompass your writing style and other overt ways you show your brand’s promise to the readers. 

Perhaps you write useful articles like this one, meant to teach and empower the reader. How do you do this? With short paragraphs and strong headlines meant to draw the reader down the page. Do you use screenshots or other visuals? All of these things are part of the brand voice.

One thing to note is that although you can change the feeling of a piece of writing by altering the tone, the voice of your brand should never waffle. You want to be recognizable as the writer whenever your byline appears. Consistency is the key to building trust with your readers and a strong brand follows suit. 

Why it matters

Using both tone and voice effectively translates to consistency for your brand across all marketing and communication channels.  So whether your customer checks in with your website or your Instagram page, you want them to essentially see the same message. Writing is not one-dimensional and it requires a lot of thought and planning. Executing the correct tone while using language that works best for your audience will most certainly strengthen your brand and image.

Find your voice

Finding your brand voice is a crucial measure that should be taken before you begin creating content. Ultimately this is how your business will be viewed by the masses, so ideally you will want to think this through before rushing into any of the writing for your business. 

Think about your point of view and how you want your brand to be perceived. A good practice for envisioning this is to picture yourself at a dinner table with a client. Do you see yourself more as a colleague or as a close friend? If so, then feel free to inject some personality into it. On the other side of the coin, if you are more interested in educating your audience, then credibility becomes more important and your tone should pivot to serious and professional. 

Market research is an important part of this process as it helps you to identify your demographics and your target market. Once you have identified your target market, you should then take the time to create a unique voice that will speak to them. Don’t be afraid to be different, just remember to be true to your values and stick to them. 

Always write with your audience in mind

Regardless of how hard you may try, your message may not always be perceived the way you intend it to. And one of the unfortunate truths in life is that perception is reality. For this reason, what you choose for your copy is crucial. Understanding what you are writing and how it will be perceived before you begin to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is critical.  

If you do choose to have a light-hearted voice and are generally positive and optimistic, you must accept that there are difficult topics that need to be addressed from time to time. In those cases you will have to adjust your tone, to accommodate the topic at hand. 

Different tones used in writing

When it comes to identifying the types of tone in writing the list is long. However, we’ve pulled together a brief list of tones that we feel are most useful for writing any type of copy for therapy, coaching, or healing business. 

  • Positivity – Optimism is important for your clients and potential clients. Not only is it appealing, but it reinforces you as a good-willed professional. Avoid negative phrases and be sure to maintain a can-do attitude.
  • Motivational – Reading something uplifting can help people get through the day. Using powerful storytelling with happy endings can have such a positive effect on someone reading it that it piques their curiosity to find out more of what you have to say.
  • Accessible – It is important to make sure you are not using complicated language, jargon or presenting it in walls of text. Make sure that your copy is readable and visually appealing. Simple writing is good writing and white space is highly desirable. 
  • Sincerity – Being genuine is the only way to establish credibility and trust. Don’t be overconfident, but back up claims with real-life testimonies. Show how and why your business outclasses your competitor with real statistics. Broad claims without proof are generally perceived as empty and salesy.
  • Formal vs Informal – Formal writing is usually geared towards an academic audience. It requires advanced reading comprehension and is fact-driven, whereas an informal tone is conversational.

Tones in writing to consider based on your profession or your intent:

The best tone in your writing if you’re offering advice

When offering advice, use a tone that is both sincere and motivational. Sincerity will ensure that your advice is taken seriously and a motivational tone can work wonders to get the listener past any lingering doubts  Change is difficult for everyone, but the right message in the right tone can be the push someone needs to make a positive change in their lives. 

The best tone in your writing if you’re teaching.

When teaching complex ideas, keeping the text as simple as possible is crucial for your material to be understood. These tones will come naturally to educators, as they know exactly what it takes to teach through their language and inflection.  

The best tone in your writing if you’re giving information

The best tone to use when giving information is an informal tone. This tone is designed to be lax while providing an abundance of expert information. 

The best tone in your writing if you’re pitching, selling or making an offer

When selling a product or service, upbeat and sincere tones go hand in hand. You want to back up what you are selling with facts and statistics while creating a positive and relaxing vibe. Engaging a potential customer through positive reinforcement (complimenting them on something, for example) will not only make them happy and more comfortable with you but it also opens the door for them to want to continue hearing your pitch. 

How to audit your tone and determine where corrections are needed

Auditing the copy on your website and any other content created by your business is an important measure that should be taken periodically. Here are a few tips for auditing the copy on your website or other marketing channels.

Read all existing copy

It is important to read all of this content and determine if the voice of your business and the tone of the individual pieces are in line with your vision. Pay particular attention to the most popular pieces and remember that consistency is key. 

Ask yourself two questions 

As you audit your website ask yourself:

  • Is the tone of this copy cohesive?
  • Does the tone accurately reflect the brand?  

Figure out what works and what doesn’t

It is important to take a step back and dissect the language. Here you will need to determine if the language used in your copy is strong or strong enough. You will also want to look at the copy from the user’s point of view and determine if the messages are abundantly clear. If you mince words with weak copy your customers will notice. 

Establishing a consistent voice and nailing the tone across all of your marketing channels cannot be underestimated. The practical use of tone depends on what we’re communicating and to whom. If you are sending a ‘welcome’ email for a new subscriber to your email list, for example, then you want to express a warm welcome in a tone that encourages engagement and invites participation, while exuding professionalism and knowledge. 

This thought process must be applied to any and every situation that requires any written content. Once mastered, using the right tone will give you the ability to correctly convey your message. As long as it is consistent with your brand’s voice, you will gain a foothold in the minds of your audience. The right tone will go a long way towards improving your overall marketing strategy, establishing the credibility of your brand and developing a loyal customer following. 

If copywriting and article writing has left you frustrated and unsure of what to do, we can help. Reach out for a free consultation so we can talk about the writing process and where you’re stuck moving yours along.