A quick Google search for “tone-of-voice words” will surface lists of hundreds of words used to describe literary tones.(Most of them come from websites for undergraduate English courses).You’ll quickly notice that most of those words have very specific meanings and connotations (e.g., “vexed” or “cynical”), and couldn’t be used to describe the tones of many (if any) websites.
As can be seen, choosing words based on their connotation can make for two very different tones.
The words you choose to describe the beauty of a paradise should connote positive images (as does the word “beauty here), but those describing the gloom of a slum require should connote negative images (as does the word “gloom”).
Connotations are basically present in every sentence that we hear, write, and speak.
Therefore, words are essentially chosen based on their connotation.
It’s a fairly traditional, straightforward message. (Remember, the irreverence here is the speaker’s attitude towards the subject, not necessarily towards the audience.) We wanted to make sure changes in the 4 tone-of-voice dimensions would be noticeable to our users, and not just theoretical concepts.
In preparation for an upcoming study, we used these 4 dimensions to create paired tone-of-voice samples for made-up websites from 4 industries (2 samples per industry).Here we describe a framework of 4 dimensions that can be used to analyze or plan a site’s tone of voice.Then we conducted qualitative usability testing and online surveys, measuring the impact of those tone qualities on users.We decided to design a manageable web-specific tool that content strategists could use to create simple tone profiles for a company’s online presence.Our goal was to identify several tone-of-voice dimensions that could be used to describe the tone of voice of any website. We then eliminated any words that wouldn’t be realistic content goals for normal websites (like “guilty”).First, let’s try a serious, formal, respectful, and matter-of-fact error message. Now we’ve taken the error message’s tone to casual and enthusiastic.We’re not trying to make users laugh, or using any strong emotion in the message. If we add an attempt at humor and a little irreverence, we’ll have taken the same message to a totally different tone of voice.” For instance, the word “thin” can be expressed in different ways: imagine a friend saying, “WOW, you’re so slender, you look amazing!” versus “oh my God, you’re so skinny, do you ever eat?When writing or speaking, a word’s connotation should help set the tone as positive or negative, and should be selected with its implications in mind.The most important thing when choosing words is intention, and they should be selected based on the answer to the question, “what feeling do you want to convey through your words?