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May 25, 2022

5 Tips for Nailing Your Tone and Messaging

From books, magazines, and blogs, to cover letters, resumes, and annual reviews, everything you read and write has its own tone and messaging. Whether you’re immediately aware of it or not—tone and messaging leave you feeling a certain way. Are you motivated after reading it? Angry? Happy? Sad? Uncomfortable? Concerned?

Think about the last thing you read on social media. Was it a warm-and-fuzzy post about something a kid did? Was it an angry or perhaps humorous post regarding a run-in at the grocery store? Was it a straightforward or funny article about how to change the oil in your car? Good or bad, the particular tone and messaging the writer used struck a chord with you and either kept you engaged until the very end—or had you running for the hills.

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So, before you start writing, keep this in mind: aside from giving your reader valuable content, the tone and messaging you use will affect how people feel, how they react, and whether or not they’ll “tune you out”.

So, how do you nail your next piece?

When it comes to understanding how to establish the correct tone and messaging to use in your writing, you need know the answer to this question, “What do you want to convey and how do you want people to react?” To get more in depth, here are some tone of voice examples, followed by five simple tips for keeping any audience engaged:

  • Humorous
  • Formal
  • Respectful
  • Enthusiastic
  • Conversational

1. Understand tone vs. voice. One of the first steps you’ll need to hone the proper tone/messaging is to understand how it differs from voice. While you may not be a multi-million dollar corporation, make no mistake that you’re working to establish your own brand voice—a.k.a. your personal brand—and its credibility with everything you write. Your brand voice is the unique way you write—your unmistakable style, feel, and persona. In contrast, your tone can change with each post. For example, some topics you write about may use a humorous or light-hearted tone. Other times, you might be addressing heavy topics where it’s more appropriate to be respectful or formal. You can change your tone from post to post without straying from your chosen voice.

“How do you know what tone will resonate with your audience if you don’t bother to get to know them?”

2. Know your audience. How do you know what tone will resonate with your audience if you don’t bother to get to know them? You can quickly turn off your readers by using an inappropriate tone for the subject matter at hand. People will only continue to read something because they find some sort of inspiration or motivation in what you write—it’s how you make them feel. Much of that comes from knowing which tone resonates with an audience. Is it possible to use humor to address serious topics? Of course, it is. However, you still need to find the proper tone to ensure your message is coming across appropriately. An example of this is a good late-night talk show. Yes, it’s comedy, but the cast members and crew have taken an approach to seriously fact-checking everything, while also presenting information in a comedic way. After all, real-life can often be stranger than fiction, so why not look at the funny side?

3. Use editing software. If you’re not sure how to effectively write with a specific tone, get some help. Use editing software that will not only help you improve your spelling and grammar but can also help identify the tone you’re using. Get feedback as you write so you can adjust as needed, which helps to minimize edits in the end. The better you can hone your tone and messaging, the more likely you’ll be able to connect and build an audience or relationship.

4. Know the topic. While strong writing takes a significant amount of knowledge about your audience, it requires a good understanding of the topic, as well. Remember—content is king—so knowing your topic inside and out is the precursor to nailing down the tone and messaging you want to convey. However great your information may be, using the wrong tone with your audience can be a missed opportunity. Too much anger and outrage could scare them away before they even get started, while too much levity could be a turnoff, as well.

5. Set goals. Trying to nail your tone of voice and messaging takes some time and effort. By setting goals before you begin writing, you can take out some of the guesswork. For example, you have a weekly blog but you’re not getting a lot of views. Your first goal could be to research your most popular blogs (or your competition’s) and determine which content, tone, and messaging seemed to resonate with readers. The second goal is to write a new blog based on that research. The third goal could be to increase your weekly blog views by 20 percent. As you start to see more success, be sure to use all the tools at your disposal. For example, downloading a free social-media content calendar template will help you gather and execute your ideas, while giving you space to jot down things like the number of views/comments and other notes on each piece. This will help you plan ahead, determine the tone you want to use, and the message you’d like to share.

Establishing yourself as a successful writer takes a lot of work, whether you’re a blogger, author, or just someone trying to land their dream job with the perfect resume. Once you figure out what tone of voice to use in your communications, and how to share your message, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your goals.

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