Tone in Writing: 13 Common Types

Tone in writing is one of the things that differentiates different types of writing from each other. Learn its different types in this article

The tone of a piece of writing comes from many different things. The word choice, length of sentences, sentence structure and point of view all play a role in setting the tone for the piece. Nailing down your tone, and keeping it consistent throughout your piece, is critical to being a skilled writer. This guide will help you understand what is tone in writing, teaches the different types and offers writing tips to help you establish the right tone for a particular audience.

What Is Tone in Writing?

Tone refers to the emotional feeling of the words in a piece of writing. You can write in a tone that conveys happiness, sadness, confidence and skepticism depending on your word choices. Your overall tone can be lighthearted, formal, casual, regretful, or any other number of descriptions. It can form part of your style guide template

Tone refers to the level of formality of a piece. Some writing needs to be formal, such as when writing for business or academic purposes. Other writing can be informal and friendly, such as when writing a note to a friend or a fiction story. Consider writing tone as similar to what body language, facial expression, and tone of voice do for a spoken conversation. Getting the right tone for the audience is vital to good written communication.


Tone in writing
Formal writing shows up in academic writing and professional writing

1. Formal

Formal writing shows up in academic writing and professional writing. It is a direct, respectful tone and does not use contractions. This tone does not have flower words or colloquial phrases but is to the point. These phrases use a formal tone:

  • Sincerely,
  • The managerial team will not address this further.
  • The data indicates. . .
  • To Whom It May Concern

For help getting this tone right, check out our guide to the best academic writing software.

2. Informal

An informal tone stands in direct contrast to a formal tone. This writing is conversational and shows expression. It is similar to the candid way you would speak with a friend, using emotional words, contractions and colloquialisms. These phrases use an informal tone:

  • How’re you doing?
  • We’ve got to get together soon.
  • She’s coming over after lunch.

3. Optimistic Or Positive

Grammarly positive tone
Grammarly includes a tone detector

An optimistic writing tone gives the reader a sense of hope. This positive style of writing is uplifting and inspiring. This tone conveys the writer’s attitude that everything will turn out fine in the end. These phrases use an optimistic tone:

  • It’ll be alright.
  • She’ll be fine.
  • He reassured his friend about his care.

4. Pessimistic Or Negative

Conversely, a pessimistic writing tone gives the reader a sense of what could go wrong. This positive style of writing is negative and downbeat. This tone conveys the writer’s attitude that things may not work out. It’s a common type of tone that journalists employ as part of their news values. These phrases use a pessimistic tone:

  • It’s a real concern for…
  • She expressed concern that..
  • Economists are fearful of inflation.

5. Worried

A worried tone is one that writers use to make the reader feel apprehensive. This tone can show up often in news headlines and stories designed to trigger a fear response to the subject matter at hand. It’s also common in fiction writing. These phrases use a worried tone:

  • She was stressed.
  • He rocked back and forth, his eyes darting toward the window.
  • She reached tentatively for the package, not sure what to think.

6. Assertive

Writers who speak with authority often use an assertive tone. This is common in business writing and can also be found in academic writing. It shows that the writer is confident. These examples show an assertive tone:

  • He was resolute in his decision.
  • I am confident we can reach a positive conclusion.
  • Pay attention to the details.

7. Encouraging

The goal of writing with an encouraging tone is to support and reassure the reader. This tone inspires the reader to overcome fears and take action. These examples show an encouraging tone in writing:

  • Let’s encourage each other toward success.
  • Take a deep breath, because you’ve got this!
  • Mom always told me to just jump in with both feet.

8. Friendly

A friendly tone in writing takes a non-threatening approach. This tone works well when you want to build trust with your readers. It will be kind, lighthearted and enthusiastic. These phases use a friendly tone:

  • She waved at her son from the audience to cheer him on.
  • Happy birthday!
  • She is such a sweet girl.

9. Curious

Writing with a curious tone explores ideas the writer and reader still want to uncover. It inspires a desire to learn more. These phrases use a curious tone:

  • The mystery remained unsolved for years.
  • She wondered who might have sent it.
  • Her curiosity got the best of her.

10. Cooperative

A cooperative tone pulls the reader into the writing. It uses words like “we” and “us” to convey a sense of teamwork. Cooperative writing often shows up in writing designed to get involvement from the reader. These phrases show a cooperative tone:

  • Let me know your thoughts on this topic.
  • We’ll meet up next week to discuss this issue further.
  • Let’s take a collaborative approach to the problem.

11. Neutral

A neutral tone is factual in nature and does not tell much about how the author feels. While it may use informal contractions and pronouns, it remains factual and to the point. Here are some examples of a neutral tone:

  • The old man waited for his bus.
  • The family was invited to the picnic but didn’t choose to go.
  • I will be able to attend the party.

12. Excited

An excited tone in writing takes an energetic approach. It works well when you want to build enthusiasm with readers. It usually employs lots of adverbs, adjectives and even metaphors. These phases use an energetic tone:

  • We had a blast at the party.
  • I can’t wait for the New Year.
  • She is over the moon about her exam results.

13. Conversational Tone

A conversational tone in writing takes a relaxed, everyday approach. It works well when you want to employ a chatty writing style and aren’t as worried about grammar issues. It’s popular on social media and with bloggers. These phases use a conversational tone:

  • And so, there I was all set to party.
  • She says she loves writing, but I don’t think so.
  • Can you believe it’s Christmas again?!

Tone and Emotional Response to Your Writing

When readers read something you write, they have an emotional response to it. Your tone is a key factor in what that emotional response will be. By carefully choosing your words to convey a specific feeling, using personal pronouns when appropriate and carefully structuring each sentence, you can elicit the emotional response you want every time you write. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in our guide on using a tone words list to improve your writing.

How Do You Determine Tone in Writing?

Another way you can change the tone of your writing is by using a writing assistant, like Grammarly. It scans your writing and provides an overall tone. It then gives suggestions on how to change that tone. Over time using tools like this, you will get better at determining the tone and adjusting it on your own.

  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.