Language Versus Tone – Conveying Your Message and Brand on Social Media

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© R Mitchell

Carrie De Simas

Editor in Chief @ GoneWithTheWord

Language is what you say. Tone is how you say it. The two together is communication. 

When you’re standing in front of someone, they listen to the words you are saying, hear your tone, and observe your body language. These three work together to create a complete understanding of the message you are communicating.

When you are sending out one-directional communications, such as on social media, you lose two of those three components. The question for social media marketers becomes: How do you convey all the unspoken communication on the page or computer screen?

The simplest way is through the use of font embellishments.

Take the scenario of two friends exchanging gossip over lunch:

“I can’t believe he had an affair with her.”

What part of that is unbelievable to the speaker? We can’t tell from that. Add a font embellishment and the tone becomes clearer.

So one woman says to the other:

“I can’t believe he had an affair with her.”

This implies that both women know who the mistress is and some of her characteristics. In this statement, the speaker is clearly expressing a disbelief that the man had an affair with that specific woman.

Italics are used to portray tone. When we want to draw attention to a word, layer sarcasm into syllables, or layer innuendo or implication while speaking, we use a certain tone. Verbally, that usually means the word is spoken slower, more succinctly, or the syllables are drawn out in an exaggerated manner to be emphatic. On the page or computer screen, we use italics to convey this type of tone.

What about an attempt to convey the emphatic speech of someone trying to convince, rally or energetically engage the listener? Think of Tony Robbins and his presentation while speaking. His voice raises and his arms pump as his excitement reverberates through his speech. How do we convey that type of speech? Through bolded font.

Use the above scenario but let’s add the information that two women are friends with the woman who was cheated on, and the mistress walks into the room. Then the speaker might say:

“I can’t believe he had an affair with her!”

This would likely be accompanied by a hand gesture such as a pointed finger towards the mistress. This shows a heightened energy and emotion, in this case: Anger.

Bold and italics are the most common font embellishments used in social media (and fiction!) writing. Underlines tend to throw off the reader, but can be used to further emphasize a word or expression. All caps can accomplish the same, but tend to be read as yelling, so use them sparingly (or as headers). 

Remember that communication requires the words, but also the tone. So choose your words and embellishments with care. 

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