Are you struggling to find good tone examples? Perhaps the tone of your own internal narrative, right now, might be best described as worried or confused.
We’re here to cut through the confusion.
So what’s tone?
It’s not quite the same as a writer’s voice or style.
Instead, tone conveys how the narrator or author feels about their subject matter. The tone of a piece might be upbeat, funny, sorrowful… or something else entirely.
Tone, in writing, is a literary device that shows us how the writer feels about the subject matter — or, in some cases, their target audience.
In fiction, tone can also convey the feelings of the narrator or a viewpoint character: in this case, it’s important to distinguish between the writer’s attitude and the character’s attitude.
(Be careful not to ascribe views to the writer that they may not actually agree with.)
Tone is conveyed through careful word choice, often including figurative language such as imagery and personification. Punctuation, as well as sentence structure and sentence length, can also affect the tone.
Why Use Tone in Writing?
Every piece of writing has a tone — even if that tone is dry and factual. Writers usually deliberately create a tone, in order to:
- Craft a more compelling piece of writing: one that reaches the target audience on an emotional level, making a connection between the writer and the reader.
- Add layers of meaning to their work: the tone of a piece could say a lot more than the mere subject matter at hand.
- Position themselves, as authors, in a particular way. A nonfiction author might adopt a gently humorous tone to seem more approachable, for instance.
- Create an emotional effect. Although this is usually done by the mood of a piece, the tone can also cause the reader to feel something. A dissonant tone — something serenely calm about the horrors of the subject matter — can be unnerving or poignant.
Difference Between Tone and Mood
It’s easy to get confused between the tone and the mood of a piece of writing. Here’s how they compare:
- Tone tells us how the author (or the narrator or viewpoint character) feels about the subject matter. They might be lighthearted, serious, angry, laid-back, or something else entirely.
- Mood is the atmosphere or ambiance of a piece of writing. It’s how the author wants the reader to feel. The mood of a piece might be scary, funny, uplifting, or tense.
Often, the tone and mood will work together in harmony, so it’s easy to confuse them. The character might be frightened and the author wants the reader to feel a sense of dread, too.
But tone and mood can also create a contrast. Perhaps the tone is light and frivolous, but the reader is aware of something much darker beneath the surface, creating a suspenseful mood.
7 Common Types of Tone in Writing (+ Examples)
While there are lots of possible tones for a piece of writing, there are certain tones that are particularly common. Let’s take a look at seven of those – with examples.
Every young man starting life ought to know how to cope with an angry swan, so I will briefly relate the proper procedure. You begin by picking up the raincoat which somebody has dropped; and then, judging the distance to a nicety, you simply shove the raincoat over the bird’s head; and, taking the boat-hook which you have prudently brought with you, you insert it underneath the swan and heave.P.G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves
Two things are about to happen in Britain. Next month ministers will increase the value of benefits by just 3.1% – the equivalent of a real-terms cut in light of soaring inflation. At the same time, household costs will rocket: energy bills will increase by 54% from April alongside record high rents and a national insurance hike.
My heart quailed at the idea of sharing a roof with her again, all of us swept up in the tornado vortex of her illness. I had mostly stopped taking her calls. Writing checks assuaged my conscience when I felt I couldn’t risk my own mental health by sticking my head in the blast furnace of her rage.
We don’t need apples from the swamp, truth to tell. Ben can buy them at Mr Phelps’s store if he really wants them. Also true: going to the swamp to pick a few apples is not a job for a man cuz men are never allowed to be so idle.Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go
Universal basic income (UBI) is a radical policy proposal of a monthly cash grant given to all members of a community without means test, regardless of personal desert, with no strings attached, and, under most proposals, at a sufficiently high level to enable a life free from economic insecurity.
‘Hey Clark,’ he said. ‘Tell me something good.’ I stared out of the window at the bright-blue Swiss sky and I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn’t have met, and who didn’t like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other. And I told him of the adventures they had, the places they had gone, and the things I had seen that I had never expected to.Jojo Moyes, Me Before You
We were worn out and worn down. Bone-weary and tearful. And in the end, it was all too much. In my case, the pressure of trying to keep all the balls in the air led to two severe depressive episodes when I was in my 30s.
10 Examples of Tone in Literature, Poetry, and Pop Culture
Next, we’ll dig into some examples of tone from literature, poetry, and pop culture, so you can see exactly how writers create the tone of a piece.
Examples of Tone in Literature
1. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein (1937)
In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to it: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.
In The Hobbit, Tolkein adopts a leisurely, conversational tone, as if talking to a child. This is no great surprise: the stories began as bedtime stories told to his own children.
2. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin (1968)
The name he bore as a child, Duny, was given him by his mother, and that and his life were all she could give him, for she died before he was a year old. His father, the bronze-smith of the village, was a grim unspeaking man, and since Duny’s six brothers were older than he by many years and went one by one from home to farm the land or sail the sea or work as smith in other towns of the Northward Vale, there was no one to bring the child up in tenderness.
Here, Le Guin uses a factual but slightly archaic tone, which creates a sense of distance between the reader and the story — but also presents her fantasy world (Earthsea) in a realistic way.
3. Chocolat, Joanne Harris (1999)
We came on the wind of the carnival. A warm wind for February, laden with the hot greasy scents of frying pancakes and sausages and powdery-sweet waffles cooked on the hotplate right there by the roadside, with the confetti sleeting down collars and cuffs and rolling in the gutters like an idiot antidote to winter.(Video) 3 Tricks to EAT LESS #weightloss #youtubeshorts #shorts #fitness
The unique tone of Chocolat — magical, sumptuous, and rich — is one of the things Joanne Harris is rightly praised for.
4. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (2008)
[Buttercup] hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in the bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay.
Katniss’s narrative voice quickly gives us a no-nonsense, unsentimental tone. There are hints of something rather jaded here: “the last thing I needed was another mouth to feed.”
Examples of Tone in Poetry
Poetry can take on a wide range of tones, conveying these through careful and precise choice of words, and even through devices like line breaks and the rhyme scheme.
5. The Octopus, Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs
Is those things arms, or is they legs?
I marvel at thee, Octopus;
If I were thou, I’d call me Us.
The playful humor of Ogden Nash’s poetry is evident in the tone of The Octopus, which combines an archaic, formal tone (“I marvel at thee”) with a distinctly informal tone (“is those things arms or is they legs?”)
6. William Blake, The Tyger (1794)
Tyger Tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
There’s an awestruck tone in The Tyger, as well as a hint of danger (“burning bright” and the “forests of the night”) and of fear.
7. The Hero, Siegfried Sassoon (1917)
Quietly the Brother Officer went out.
He’d told the poor old dear some gallant lies
He thought how ‘Jack’, cold-footed, useless swine,
Had panicked down the trench that night the mine
Went up at Wicked Corner; how he’d tried
To get sent home, and how, at last, he died,
Blown to small bits. And no one seemed to care
Except that lonely woman with white hair.
The tone here is biting and cold, starkly exposing the horrors and truths of war — Siegfried Sassoon was one of the leading poets of World War 1.
Examples of Tone in Pop Culture
Tone isn’t limited to written work. Let’s take a look at some examples of tone from TV and film.
8. Brooklyn 99 (2013 – 2021)
Brooklyn 99 has a silly, lighthearted tone, primarily provided by the dialogue — but also by the visuals (like the photos that Holt shows Peralta in this clip).
9. Firefly (2002 – 2003)
Firefly’s tone can be gritty and dark at times — but there’s also a strong strand of irreverent humor running through the series. Serious, dramatic moments are often undercut with humor, like when Captain Malcolm Reynolds kicks Crow into the — running — engines.
10. The Sims (2000 onwards)
Quadpod Grill description, from The Sims 4:
A high-tech heat ray in the hood of the Quadpod ensures an even cook every single time. That’s not to say that you won’t burn your hot dogs … just rest assured that the problem lies with you.
The Sims’ whimsical tone (and refusal to take itself too seriously) shows up in item descriptions — as well as in the general gameplay.
Use These Tone Examples to Deepen Your Understanding
If you don’t quite have a handle on tone yet, go back over the different tone examples above.
You might want to compare two different tone examples, looking closely at the word choices, sentence structure, and more, to see how exactly they create such different tones.
Next time you read something — whether it’s a blog post, newspaper article, or novel — pay attention to tone.
What’s the author, or character, telling you about their attitude to the subject matter?
For example, if someone was giving a eulogy at their friend's funeral, their tone would most likely be serious and sad, and that would be expressed through a low voice, slow speech, and melancholic facial expressions.What is an example of a tone in writing? ›
For example, if someone was giving a eulogy at their friend's funeral, their tone would most likely be serious and sad, and that would be expressed through a low voice, slow speech, and melancholic facial expressions.What are the 5 types of tones? ›
- 1 Formal. A formal writing tone is common in academic or professional contexts. ...
- 2 Informal. An informal tone is the opposite of a formal tone. ...
- 3 Optimistic. ...
- 4 Worried. ...
- 5 Friendly. ...
- 6 Curious. ...
- 7 Assertive. ...
- 8 Encouraging.
Here's a quick and simple definition: The tone of a piece of writing is its general character or attitude, which might be cheerful or depressive, sarcastic or sincere, comical or mournful, praising or critical, and so on.What is different types of tone in writing? ›
The first is more informal and casual, while the second is more formal. Generally, there are three categories of tones in writing: positive, negative, and neutral. Within these categories are varying intensities of emotion that writers may want to evoke.How do you find tone examples? ›
- Why am I writing this?
- Who is my intended audience?
- What do I want the reader to learn, understand, or think about?
The numbers "394052786" when pronounced in Cantonese, will give the nine tones in order (Romanization (Yale) saam1, gau2, sei3, ling4, ng5, yi6, chat7, baat8, luk9), thus giving a mnemonic for remembering the nine tones.What are the 4 types of tones? ›
The tone of any piece of content can be analyzed along 4 dimensions: humor, formality, respectfulness, and enthusiasm.What are the four 4 properties of tone? ›
A musical tone is characterized by its duration, pitch, intensity (or loudness), and timbre (or quality).What are three tone examples? ›
Some different types of tones include: Serious, sarcastic, formal, informal, and humorous. Any emotion can be a tone used by an author.
Suddenly he laughed again, this time with a cold, sharp tone. Her tone implied that her patience was limited. The spokesperson said the tone of the letter was very friendly. His comments to reporters were conciliatory in tone.What words mean tone? ›
Tone is the expression of the author's attitude. Style refers to the individual traits or characteristics of a piece of writing. The style in which a story is written is one of the clearest indications of the tone of a story.What are the two main types of tone? ›
These contrasts are called the tones of the language. The domain of the tones is usually the syllable. There are two main types of tone languages: register-tone, or level-tone, languages and contour-tone languages.What are three 3 types of tones in communication? ›
You can mix the following types of tones in your communication to make it more vibrant, impactful, and result-oriented: Formal tone. Informal tone. Factual tone.What is an example of mood? ›
Mood is a general way of describing how one is feeling over a long period of time. Following are some examples of mood: Irritable. Cheerful.What is an example of a serious tone? ›
A serious tone is often sombre, formal, or professional. It's not negative, but it's not lighthearted or humorous. Writers often use a serious tone when they want to convey information directly without distractions. Example: Due to the current economic situation, we are changing our company's policy.What is an example of tone and mood clues? ›
MOOD or TONE CLUES:
The author sets a mood, an emotion, and the meaning of the unknown word must harmonize with the mood. Example: “The lugubrious wails of the gypsies matched the dreary whistling of the wind in the all-but-deserted cemetery.”
O'Connor and Arnold define ten tone groups and find memorable names to describe the movements of pitch: The Low Drop, The High Drop, The Take-Off, The Low Bounce, The Switchback, The Long Jump, The High Bounce, The Jackknife, The High Dive, and The Terrace.What is 4th tone? ›
The fourth tone starts out high but drops sharply to the bottom of the tonal range. English-speakers often associate this tone with an angry command. It is represented by a dropping diagonal line above a letter in pinyin (or sometimes by a number "4" written after the syllable).
This rule states that if two consecutive characters have a third tone, the first “third tone” character should be changed to the second tone. So, it goes from “3-3” to “2-3”. Here are some common examples of this that we see a lot: 你好: “nǐ hǎo” becomes “ní hǎo”What 4 elements contribute to tone? ›
The four types of row forms used in twelve-tone technique are prime (P), retrograde (R), inversion (I), and retrograde inversion (RI). The prime is the original row. The retrograde is the prime form backward.What is a simple tone? ›
Simple_Tone. SIMPLE TONE. Acoustics / Psychoacoustics. A TONE having a single PITCH, such as a flute note. It is also defined as a tone having only a single FREQUENCY, thereby making it equivalent to a SINE TONE, also called a pure tone.What are the 5 tones in English? ›
Helping students to use intonation effectively to convey attitude in English will involve helping students to make the five tones (falls or rises in pitch): fall, rise, slight rise, fall followed by a rise, rise followed by a fall, through awareness raising and modelling of the common intonation patterns in context.What does 3 tone mean? ›
Three Tone Painting means that the ceiling is one color, the trim and doors another, and the walls a third color.What are three tone words? ›
- accusatory. containing or expressing blame. ...
- apathetic. showing little or no emotion or animation. ...
- awe. an overwhelming feeling of wonder or admiration. ...
- bitter. marked by strong resentment or cynicism. ...
- caustic. harsh or corrosive in tone. ...
- callous. emotionally hardened. ...
- choleric. ...
tone noun (VOICE EXPRESSION)
a quality in the voice that expresses the speaker's feelings or thoughts, often towards the person being spoken to: I tried to use a sympathetic tone of voice.
Tone—viewpoint character's attitude. Mood—atmosphere felt by the reader. Style—word choices and word arrangements made by the writer. ***What are the three elements of tone includes? ›
Tone has three elements that should be considered. Number one, the purpose of the message, and number two, the audience of the message, and number three, the words used to convey the tone.
That is, the first tone is high and flat pitch, the second is rising pitch, the third is a low falling-rising pitch, and the fourth is falling pitch.Why is tone important in literature? ›
Tone refers to the attitude a writer conveys toward the subject matter and the reader. The tone of a document can affect how the reader perceives the writer's intentions. These perceptions, in turn, can influence the reader's attitude toward the text and the writer.Why is tone important? ›
When speaking with others, your tone clarifies and conveys meaning. A phrase as simple as “I don't know” can be taken in a number of different ways depending on how you decide to express it. Your tone can not only affect how people perceive you but also their willingness to listen to you – especially in the workplace.How can I control my tone? ›
Don't speak in a monotone voice. Instead, make your voice both high and low as you talk. Stressing important words in your sentence with a higher pitch reassures listeners, while lower pitches can inject calmness into your conversation. End questions on a higher pitch and statements on a lower pitch.What is a friendly tone of voice? ›
A "friendly" voice lets people know that they can trust, rely upon, and be reassured by you. This will usually involve speaking clearly, naturally, with confidence, and without any nerves constricting your voice.What are the four types of tone in writing? ›
The tone of any piece of content can be analyzed along 4 dimensions: humor, formality, respectfulness, and enthusiasm.What are the 4 basic tones in English? ›
That is, the first tone is high and flat pitch, the second is rising pitch, the third is a low falling-rising pitch, and the fourth is falling pitch.What is an example of tone or mood? ›
Tone often describes the writing overall, but the mood of a piece of writing can change throughout it. For example, at the death of a character the mood could be depressed or sad, but at the discovery of a long lost friend, the mood could be upbeat and joyful.What are examples of mood? ›
Mood is how the author wants the reader to feel, as a result of reading (or watching) their work. The mood of a piece might be funny, sad, creepy, cheerful, nostalgic, curious, and so on.