Have you come across the term ‘tone of voice’ and wonder what it is and how it applies to your business? If you create any marketing content for your brand (online or offline), then tone of voice is important to you. But what is tone of voice exactly? Why does it matter to your business? And how do you decide which tone of voice is right for you and your brand?
In this article, we focus on tone of voice in writing, and specifically writing for the web. So if you write website copy, social media posts, newsletters, etc. this applies to you. But you can use these principles for all types of online and offline communication too. So if you have an offline presence, thinking about tone of voice can help you with things like leaflets, brochures, business cards, etc.
So if you’re a personal brand, for example, you want your tone of voice to be as close as possible to how you sound in real life. And if you are a bigger business, you still need to work out how you want your brand to come across because your tone of voiceinfluences what people think, how they feel, and what action(s) they take after reading your words. So it’s not just about what you say. It’s also about how you say it!
The difference between ‘voice’ and ‘tone’
It’s worth mentioning that in writing and literary circles, a strong distinction is made between the terms ‘voice’ and ‘tone’. Voice is defined as the distinctive personality of your writing – it’s what makes you unique and recognisable and allows your audience to see your character. Your voice is one and one only.
Your ‘tone’, on the other hand, can change because it’s what reflects the mood and feelings of your writing and helps you to connect with your audience through your content.
Best-selling author Ann Handley talks about the difference in this way:
“Voice doesn’t change, but your tone should, depending on the feeling you are trying to convey.”
For the purpose of this article, we are going to talk more broadly about your tone of voice as the way your business comes across through your writing.