Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Importance of Tone

Mini-Nothings represent a whole new eating experience. With 100% genuine artificial cheese and your choice of toppings, Mini-Nothings are the perfect snack food to serve to guests or co-workers.

Mini-Nothings! The party's going on - in your mouth! Take a bite, and you're on your way to cheese nirvana! Get the guys up off the couch raving for your Mini-Nothings this Sunday!


Same product. Same features, same benefit hints. So what's the big difference? Tone.

A dictionary definition of tone is as follows: "The quality of something (an act or a piece of writing) that reveals the attitudes and presuppositions of the author." In other words, what I think and believe is imparted in the words and sentences I create.

Or at least, that's what the reader is supposed to think.

Part of the act of copywriting is creating a company tone. In terms of conversation, this is how you want your company to sound to your customers if the two of you were sitting eye to eye at a coffee shop somewhere. When people read, words are pictured in their mind, just as they would be if they were hearing them. This means there's a sound quality inherent to your writing. The mind fills that in with its perceptions of tone.

For some companies a clipped, very professional tone is appropriate (usually B2B, white-collar stuff like banks and securities). Lots of facts, clear benefit statements, logical progression of thought. Somewhat cerebral, this kind of tone appeals to the customer's sense of reason and credits them with the wherewithal to make educated decisions.

Other companies may want a more fast-paced, enthusiastic approach (typically B2C, new products, something the teens can create new trends from). Quick-and-dirty benefits, a spoonful or two of hyped-up language, market lingo. This tone spurs the herd mentality, kickstarts the need for belonging, relies heavily on spur-of-the-moment emotions.

There's a lot to explore in terms of tone, both for companies overall and for different types of writing. In fiction, tone is often what makes the difference between a dull, boring read and a late-night turn-the-pager. It could even be the difference between your next marketing campaign falling dead out of the gate, and racing across town so fast your phone's leaping off the desk.


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