Imagine you're writing to a friend who you've known since childhood. Your friend is a laidback type. Do you think the following would be a good opener?

I am getting in touch, as it has been a while since we spoke, and I would like to enquire about your current health and wellbeing.

Man saying 'Bit weird'

Your friend might think you're a bit strange.

The reason is that your tone is not appropriate for someone you know very well.

What Is Tone In Writing

Woman saying 'Watch your tone'

Tone conveys your attitude.

You can use many adjectives to describe tone such as:

  • cheerful

  • depressing

  • angry

  • compassionate

  • humorous

Your attitude might be towards:

  • the subject you're writing about

  • the reader

How Do You Convey Tone?

You convey tone through:

  • choice of words and phrases

  • grammar - how you put the words and phrases together

  • level of formality

Donald Trump saying

Considering these three aspects, how might you congratulate a friend on their upcoming graduation via WhatsApp?

A. Congratulations, I'm so happy for you!!! Enjoy your day!

B. Many congratulations to you, you have worked hard. I hope this will help you get a job now at last.

C. I commend you on your latest success and wish you all the best on your next project.


Which option would you choose?

More On Word Choice

Word choice is probably the most important aspect of conveying tone appropriately.

Man trying to choose between two ice cream sundaes

Consider these words:

Interested ----------> Nosy

Excited ----------> Hysterical

Unique ----------> Weird

Experienced ----------> Old

The words on the left have a positive feel, but the words on the right are negative and may show that you are judging someone's characteristics.

Unless you're writing fiction, it may be best to avoid judgemental adjectives in your writing, whether your intention is to be formal or informal.


You're writing a Linkedin post about a project you've just completed. You want to include some difficulties that you encountered. Complete this sentence with the appropriate word: "My teammates were _______ when reviewing my work."

Consider Your Readers

Consider who will be reading your email or other written piece. For instance, if you work in a company that's very formal, you don't want to write too informally as this may not be considered appropriate for your readers.

Let's look at a scenario:

A woman in bed under her blanket Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

You've just started working at a law firm and want to take a day off sick. You write an email to your manager in the morning. What would be the most appropriate way to start it?

A. Unfortunately, I have been very sick since last night and will not be able to come into work today.

B. I'm sick, was throwing up all night. Gonna take the day off, cya tmrw maybe.

C. Hi!! I'm ill today :o :( Won't be in the office, will let you know how I feel later on. xxx


Which option should you choose?

Take Action

Winnie the Pooh 'thinking'

Think about the following next time you craft an email or other written piece:


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