What is tone of voice and why is it important?

If I asked you to think about the word “tone”, what comes to mind? 

You might imagine spoken conversation. What’s the tone of the conversation? Is it angry? Happy? Cautious? Tone can sometimes communicate feelings with listeners irrespective of word choice.

So what does “tone of voice” mean exactly?

The written tone is crafted using words and phrases to communicate. It can use direct, second-person pronouns (e.g. “you”) and simple, casual phrases to construct a friendly and inviting tone.

Relatedly, using only third-person pronouns (e.g. “they”), complex wording, more technical terms and industry jargon can, in comparison, create a more formal and distant tone.

Generally speaking, the tone of voice is how your brand communicates with the audience and how it influences readers to perceive your messaging. In other words, it describes how we want to come across to our audience, rather than what we want to communicate to them.

Although certain types of copy may require tonal changes, the overall tone of voice should be consistent throughout every piece of content. 

Brand Voice vs. Tone of Voice: What’s The Difference? 

Although the two are somewhat related, brand voice and tone serve two distinct purposes:

  • A brand voice represents the brand’s unique perspective, personality, and values it stands for.
  • A brand tone of voice is how the brand chooses to communicate the brand message.

Think of it this way: you’re always “you” (voice), but you express yourself differently in different settings (tone).

Businesses need a tone of voice that will guide the written copy, including the brand website, social media messages, emails and packaging to represent their brand personality and values.

Why is tone of voice important?

  • It can give expression to the people behind the brand: It’s about the people that make up the brand – the things that drive them and what they want to share with the world.
  • It helps a business stand out: A brand’s tone of voice should be distinctive and recognisable from other brands and competitors and highlight what makes the brand unique.
  • It builds trust with readers: Familiarity breeds trust because the familiar usually requires little effort to process mentally and we tend to feel at ease around it. A business that is consistent in its use of tone and language in writing can become familiar to the customer and build their trust.
  • It can be used to influence and persuade: Language is powerful. The way we use it can foster certain feelings and emotions. Since readers are sensitive to language and tone, it can influence and persuade them to take action, buy a product, or use a service.

Effectively defined and implemented, tone of voice allows your audience to recognise your business or brand through content.

Tone of voice is not what you want to say, rather it is the way you say it and the impression it makes on your audience. In short, it is how the character of your business shines through using words.