As a writer, you’ve probably heard of style and tone.
People often use these literary devices interchangeably because they both help you express yourself when writing.
However, there is a significant difference between the two, and each serves a unique purpose.
If you want more information on style and tone in writing, you’ve come to the right place.
I wrote this guide to explain the difference between a writer’s style and tone. I also discuss how to use different moods when writing.
Table of Contents
Style and Tone in Writing
I will define style and tone in writing in this section and discuss the differences between the two.
What Is Style in Writing?
Style relates to words and how writers put them together. It describes how authors express their ideas.
Some authors have a raw and straightforward writing style. These writers often use strong verbs and short, simple sentences.
Ernest Hemmingway, the American novelist and short-story writer, best exemplifies this writing style.
Hemingway demonstrated this “raw” style by telling an entire story using only six words.
Meanwhile, authors like Sylvia Plath, Robert Frost, and Emily Dickinson preferred long, ornate sentences, visual metaphors, and colorful narratives.
What Is Tone in Writing?
The author’s tone refers to how they string words together to elicit specific effects.
Here are examples of tone.
- Formal tone
- Encouraging tone
- Positive tone
- Satirical tone
- Pessimistic tone
- Funny tone
- Understanding tone
Word choice creates the overall tone of an author’s written piece, revealing the attitude and the impression they want to convey in their story.
Note that a story’s overall tone differs from the tone of characters who might convey anger, bitterness, sorrow, affection, love, fear, or contempt.
When someone asks you, “What is the tone of the story?” it usually pertains to the author’s attitude or emotion toward the primary conflict in the story.
What Are the Different Tones in Writing?
An author’s word choice is paramount to accurately communicating tone in literature or professional writing. They convey tone by using specific words.
There are different authors’ tones.
While there is no formal way to categorize tone in writing, here are some of the most common examples of tone you’ll encounter.
An informal tone sounds more personal and conversational—similar to how you would talk to a close friend.
This tone has more emotion than, say, a formal tone.
Consequently, writers often use an informal tone in creative writing.
The sentence structure in this tone can be long, short, or a combination of both to create a more interesting rhythm.
Use first- and second-person pronouns instead of telling your story in a third-person perspective to make it more personal.
- “How much are you willing to sacrifice?”
- “I thought minimizing my needs would make me this cool, low-maintenance woman.”
- “Do you think it’s worth your time?”
Writers use a formal tone in academic and business writing, such as when writing a proposal.
A formal tone uses simple, direct, and respectful language. It’s not personal or emotional.
Your word choice should be professional when using a formal writing tone.
Avoid first- and second-person pronouns like I, you, your, we, us, and our to convey a formal tone.
- People have tried several herbal remedies for asthma. However, further studies are necessary to assess their effectiveness.”
- To whom it may concern:
- Professional writing uses a formal writing style for the business setting.
Authors can encourage readers to overcome their fears and doubts with specific word choices (ex., inspirational metaphors).
- “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.” – Walt Whitman
- “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love!… And what your potential is.” – Anne Frank
- “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis
As its name suggests, a friendly tone sounds light and kind-hearted.
This tone combines informal and formal tones to make the message warmer and more personal.
- “Just let me know if you need anything!”
- “You have the warmest, most welcoming smile I’ve ever seen.”
- “What a sweet boy!”
Use an assertive tone to convey authority and confidence.
Using the appropriate words, you can present your point of voice without being aggressive.
- “Students, please pay close attention to the instructions.”
- “I am convinced our findings can help doctors improve their diagnoses.”
- “There is no denying that I’ve prepared for my exam.”
While an assertive tone conveys self-assuredness, an aggressive tone primarily demonstrates anger and frustration.
- “Do what I say because I say so.”
- “It’s my way or the highway.”
- “I don’t care what you have to say.”
This tone conveys astonishment, joy, or shock.
- “I was dumbfounded when I heard she resigned from her high-paying job.”
- “The girl was stunned at her mother’s refusal to help.”
- “The students stood with their mouths wide open.”
A curious tone reveals an element that readers must discover, encouraging them to stay on the page longer to determine what happens.
- “When he saw her smile, he didn’t know if it meant contempt, incredulity, or excitement.”
- “Guys, do you want me to describe childbirth? Okay, it feels like your body is exploding and imploding simultaneously.”
- “The bouquet of flowers arrived at her doorstep without a name or a message.”
This tone conveys a sense of hope that things will get better, despite challenging or deplorable situations.
- “Although I lost all my belongings in a house fire, I believe we’re lucky that we got out alive.”
- “Despite the economic downturn the country is experiencing, I’m optimistic that everything will bounce back.”
The entertaining tone aims to make readers smile or laugh through jokes, quips, and humorous stories.
This tone is often light-hearted and amusing.
- “If you want people to always remember you, borrow money and never pay them back.”
- “If you fall, I’ll be there.” – Floor
- “People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.” – Stephen King
Business writers use a cooperative tone when a group works toward a common goal. Thus, this tone generally includes collaborative elements, positivity, and camaraderie.
- “We are growing together. No one is left behind.”
- “I would love to hear everyone’s feedback.”
- “Here, we are like a family.”
The plot often creates tension more than an author’s actual word choice because the former builds towards a climax.
If you’re writing a mystery novel, use a suspenseful tone.
On the other hand, include some sexual tension when writing a romantic story.
- “The girls’ eyes darted toward the killer, but she remained silent lest he revealed her own dark secret.”
- “I frantically searched the room to find my asthma inhaler before I passed out.”
These are the most common writing tones, but you may also encounter the following:
- Worried tone
- Critical tone
- Informational tone
- Bitter tone
- Judgmental tone
What Is Mood in Writing?
Mood and tone are essential elements in writing because they make a story memorable and compelling. They also improve the reader’s experience.
Despite some similarities, mood and tone are different.
While the tone in writing is the feeling a writer conveys in a story, the mood is the emotion the reader feels.
Another crucial difference is tone offers insight into the writer’s personal views and experiences, whereas mood often depends on the readers’ unique interpretation.
Certain words can enhance mood. However, each reader has a different emotion or interpretation of a story.
What Are the Types of Moods in Writing?
Here are the most common emotions writers try to evoke in their readers.
How Do You Create Mood?
Here are five elements authors use to create a mood in their story:
In literature, setting pertains to a narrative’s time, location, and physical environment.
Some of the world’s best authors use setting to create a specific mood and even foreshadow their characters’ fates.
Tone conveys the author’s attitude toward a topic. Examples include empathic, depressive, light-hearted, or tense.
Literary genres include science fiction, romance, horror, mystery, fantasy, thriller, and dystopian. Genre is also known as artistic category or style.
The style is how authors structure their words, sentences, and figurative language to tell their stories.
The first-, second-, or third-person viewpoints affect the story’s mood.
What Is a Writer’s Voice?
Consider voice as the writer’s way of demonstrating their personality through word choice, sentence structure, and tone. This literary device is of utmost importance when telling a true story.
Follow these five simple steps to find your writer’s voice:
- Identify your point of view.
- Establish a consistent voice for your narrators.
- Carefully pick your word choice and sentence structure.
- Create a balance between your dialogue and description.
- Practice, practice, practice.
The Bottom Line
I hope my guide gave you a much clearer understanding of the differences between writing style, tone, and mood.
Don’t be afraid to apply what you’ve learned in my article to your story.
However, remember that it’s a constant learning process since the rules for style, tone, mood, and voice change with time.
To improve as a writer, it would help if you learned what an anecdote is in writing.