Don’t take that tone of voice with me

Tone of voice in copywritingWhy the sound of your voice matters in writing

Words and the way you use them should reflect the type of relationship you have, or would like to have, with your intended reader. Your tone of voice is an indicator; a pointer towards the nature of your business and a signal of how you would like to be perceived.

Put it this way, flippant remarks and matey humour don't go down well in banking or healthcare. In these areas, trust and reassurance should be conveyed in every sentence, whether spoken or written.

Before putting pen to paper (metaphorically speaking), either online or in print, consider the tone that best suits your brand or your company’s stance. Formal, informal, friendly or authoritative?

It’s a worthwhile exercise to review all your written communications and weigh up what you think they say about you and your business. I don’t just mean the marketing ones; in-house communications are often just as telling. Invoices, staff notices, even terms and conditions, are reflective of a company’s personality. Do words flow from the page and trip off the tongue? Or do they creak and groan with the following afflictions:

  • Industry jargon and technical terms. All your words should be understandable to the man on the street.
  • Too many writers = too many styles (especially off-putting in a single document). Try for consistency across all your written material.
  • Long-winded or overly descriptive text. Get to the point (fast), or you’ve lost your reader.

To adopt a tone effectively, you should know who you're trying to attract. Here are two companies who know their markets well, and in my view pitch it perfectly.

Liz Earle not only makes one of the best face cleansers around, she knows precisely who wants to buy it. The company’s literature and website offers advice in a chatty, confiding voice. Liz Earle uses words like organic and botanical to convey a feelgood factor of using nature to create beauty.

The style of Liz Earle’s website is open and friendly. The word 'community' is used to give an inclusive feel. Letters from Liz are addressed to Dear Friends, and the customer reviews accompanying each product description reinforce the air of a group of female friends freely sharing beauty tips.

As a keen gardener, I’m often found drooling over the gorgeous plants on the fabulous Crocus website. Like Liz Earle, Crocus makes their customers feel like part of the gang. Their style and tone is playful and engaging, but also honest and matter-of-fact. Gentle humour runs through the site, which makes the reader want to carry on clicking through the pages. The same tone and language is used throughout, not just on sales pages, but in their delivery and returns policies.

As a breed, gardeners love to share their knowledge, but will become rather tetchy if you tell them how to suck eggs. The Crocus gardeners hit just the right the note of sounding authoritative without being patronising. A valuable skill, when your customers range from novice gardeners to seasoned professionals.

The simplest method to tell if you're on the right track with your text? Read it out loud.

  • If a word sounds like it shouldn’t be there, take it out.
  • Shorten overlong sentences.
  • Add words if you think they help to clarify a statement.

Remember, it’s good to hear the voice of the writer as you read, it gives your writing personality and warmth.

Related post: Create compelling content