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10 Common Types of Tone in Writing

Updated on
February 9, 2021
Writing Tips
10 Common Types of Tone in Writing

During in-person communication, there are verbal, audial, and visual cues that convey how you feel about what you’re saying. For example, your facial expressions, voice pitch, and hand gestures give the other person more information about your attitude toward a topic.

Different tones in writing achieve a similar goal: to illustrate through words your emotional perspective about what you’re communicating. Certain words, sentence structures, and punctuation choices elicit different types of tones.

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10 different types of tones  

There are many types of tones, making possibilities endless as you craft your personal voice in your writing. Below are the 10 most common tones, as well as specific vocabulary and techniques you can use to achieve them.

1. Formal

A formal writing tone is common in academic or professional contexts. This tone focuses on being thorough and direct, yet respectful. It uses full words, rather than contractions, and emphasizes facts and grammatical correctness.

Examples: 

  • “The committee will not vote on the matter”
  • “According to the data. . .
  • “To Whom It May Concern”
  • “Respectfully yours” 

2. Informal

An informal tone is the opposite of a formal tone. Informal tone in writing is conversational and expressive, similar to how you’d speak to a friend. It uses contractions, colloquial phrases, and more emotion. Its sentence structure can be shorter with a choppy rhythm, or it can be long and chatty.

Examples: 

  • Nah—I’ve got tons of time to do my chores”
  • “Hey, what’s up?”
  • . . . Sandra laughed as she jokingly shoved her friend’s shoulder”

3. Optimistic

When writing in an optimistic tone, you’re conveying a sense of hope, and a positive outlook for the future. Even when acknowledging today’s challenges, the uplifting language gives readers aspiration.

Examples: 

  • . . . David said with a reassuring smile
  • “hopeful”
  • “hang in there” 

4. Worried

A worried tone can make your reader apprehensive and afraid. It communicates feelings of anxiousness about something that’s unknown.

Examples: 

  • “My hand tentatively reached for the knob, shaking as I held my breath. . .”,
  • rocked back and forth, looking out of the window every second. . .
  • “stressed”

5. Friendly

A friendly tone is non-threatening and elicits trust. This tone can also have a mix of formal or informal tones, depending on what you’re writing. Generally, it’s lighthearted and kind. Exclamation points can convey warmth and enthusiasm.

Examples: 

  • “Esther gave me a cheerful thumbs up from behind the curtain”
  • “What a sweet puppy!”
  • “Happy birthday, buddy!” 

6. Curious

A curious tone in your writing tells the reader that there are compelling details that you still want to uncover. This tone can be used creatively to keep the reader intrigued about learning more.

Examples: 

  • “The mystery gift didn’t reveal the sender’s name. . .”,
  • “Tillie had a list of questions in her brain, hungry to uncover the truth. . .
  • “wondering”

7. Assertive

An assertive tone exudes confidence and authority. It can also be insistent and straightforward. This tone can be used to help you persuade your audience about a topic.

Examples: 

  • “She wasn’t fazed while walking up to the podium. . .
  • “Daniel said with undeniable conviction that commanded the room. . .
  • “resolute”

8. Encouraging

An encouraging tone is supportive and understanding. It gives readers reassurance to overcome their fears and take action.

Examples: 

  • “I remembered mom’s advice to take a deep breath and jump in. . .
  • “Embolden”
  • “You’ve got this!”

9. Surprised

When writing with a surprised tone, you’re capturing how something is unexpected. The tone could elicit different types of astonishment, such as joy or shock. 

Examples: 

  • “He opened the door and his eyes widened upon seeing me. . .
  • “took their breath away. . .
  • “stunned”

10. Cooperative

A cooperative tone is common in the workplace. Your word choice—often evoking positivity and collaboration—and use of the pronoun “we” work together to invite mutual participation toward a shared goal.

Examples: 

  • “I’d love to hear your thoughts about it”
  • “collaborative”
  • “we/our”
  • we showed an allied front”

How to choose your tones wisely

As you write, it’s easy to shift tones unconsciously. If changing to different tones isn’t deliberate, Grammarly’s tone detector can help when your writing doesn’t sound the way you want it to. 

Grammarly’s tone detector analyzes each sentence’s word choice, phrasing, punctuation, and capitalization to identify its tone. It then offers tone suggestions so that you can easily make adjustments and feel confident that your readers will react the way you expect them to. Besides helping you strike the tone you intend, Grammarly’s suggestions make your writing clearer and your word choice more engaging, so your writing is polished and professional.

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