The Difference Between Voice and Tone

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Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

What’s the difference between voice and tone? And how do you implement it consistently in your business? Those are common questions I am asked in my marketing workshops.

The answer is that voice should remain consistent regardless of the circumstances. For example, Classic Disney has a family-friendly voice no matter the situation. They will not use profanity, nor words like superfluous or highfalutin. It doesn’t fit their brand or their voice. They use words suitable for a young and wholesome audience. That’s voice.

Tone is different. We have all heard (or used!) the expression “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” That’s tone. Tone is the way you say something. In person, it’s easier to define tone. It’s a combination of word choice, syntax and intonation.

In writing though? Tone becomes harder to manage. The written word is entirely subjective to the reader. So if the reader is having a bad day, they could perceive the tone to be negative when in fact no such insinuation was intended.

How do you avoid this tone pitfall in your writing? Especially on social media where the information you post will exist in cyber space forever. Here are five steps to assist you in the creation or revision of your written content.

1. Use assertive language.

  • PASSIVE:  I just wanted to email and say thank you for …
  • ASSERTIVE: Thank you for….

2. Avoid adjectives and adverbs where possible. They weaken writing and dilute the message.

  • WEAK: I had a very good time speaking to your delightful class yesterday. Thank you.
  • ASSERTIVE: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to your class yesterday.

3. Avoid the passive verb tense (“ing”).

  • PASSIVE: I was hoping that by coming down and lecturing that I was helping the students in achieving their marketing goals.
  • ASSERTIVE: I hope my lecture to the class helped the students achieve their marketing goals.

4. Avoid passive verbs like hope, feel, think, believe…Psychologically, these words imply doubt in what you’re saying.

  • WEAK: I think I tried to implement a strategy of…
  • ASSERTIVE: I implemented a strategy of… (If it didn’t work, then say so. Don’t hedge by saying “I think…”)

5. Be action-oriented. Restate their concern (briefly) because this will show that you have ‘heard’ them. Then propose a solution. Then ask for their feedback.

  • WEAK: I got your complaint about… What resolution do you want?
  • ASSERTIVE: I received your concern in regards to (restate their concern). I suggest to resolve this matter by (insert resolution). Please let me know if this would be a satisfactory solution.

Tone is more challenging in writing than in speaking. Use these tips to cultivate a business tone and keep it consistent across all platforms and experiences. It is with customer consistency that we achieve success. 


  1. Hommes
    Posted August 9, 2015 at 1:58 am | Permalink

    Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  2. Posted August 11, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    We do! We are at @EditorGWTW. Cheers and thanks for the feedback!

  3. Posted August 11, 2015 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    We do occasionally showcase guest writers. Drop us an email with your ideas!

  4. Posted August 11, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the feedback. Cheers!

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