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  • Writer's pictureLucy Jackman

Don’t take that tone of voice with me!

How many times did your parents scold you with that retort during adolescent arguments?

Unless you were an angel child, my guess is quite often!

We all have the skill and ability to vary our tone of voice when we communicate. You probably do this every day without thinking.

What is tone of voice?

Let’s break it down...

Your voice is the words you choose to communicate your message.

Your tone describes the way you deliver that message. This changes depending on who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.

For example, you’re chatting about daily life to a neighbour in the street. The tone you use in this situation is likely to be friendly, cheerful and informal.

If you were discussing your finances with the bank manager, your tone would be more formal, direct, and possibly quite serious, depending on the subject of your visit.

We all naturally change our tone of voice to suit the situation and the person we are talking to.

So in the example at the start of this post, your parents were objecting to the words you used and the way your words sounded to them.

What is tone of voice in business?

Your business tone of voice describes the words you use and how you say them. It’s how your business messages sound to your clients and customers.

Businesses in different sectors will have different tones of voice. Here are three examples...

Care home Children’s entertainer Firm of financial advisers

Empathic Fun Professional

Trustworthy Playful Knowledgeable

Caring Imaginative Trustworthy

Why does tone of voice matter?

Every business and organisation benefits from having a clear tone of voice. They’re not just for big organisations, small businesses can benefit from them too.

Benefits of a clear tone of voice

  • Consistent communications When you have a tone of voice clients receive your communications and will instantly recognise it as your business. It makes for a consistent customer journey because the way you speak in person is exactly the same as they see on your website, social media, video content, newsletter any other communications you use.

  • Builds brand personality Your tone of voice should complement your mission, vision and brand values. It should convey the personality you want to build for your brand and reflect how you want to be perceived.

  • Provides direction and guidance Tone of voice guidelines are there to support anyone who writes for your business. This could be employees who speak or write on behalf of your business, or external third parties who create content for you, e.g. copywriter, social media manager, PR/marketing agencies.

As a copywriter this last point is crucial. I know from experience just how useful a set of tone of voice guidelines can be, and what it takes to create them. I love creating tone of voice guidelines, and I’ve been lucky to have worked on some really fun and interesting ones.

When I’m taking a copywriting brief I always ask if the client has any tone of voice guidelines. If they answer, ‘Yes, I’ll send them to you’, it’s music to my ears! It makes my job so much easier.

What/Who: The client briefing gives me the information I need on what needs to be written and who I am writing for.

How: The tone of voice guidelines give me clear direction on how to write it.

Put these all together and you get content that ticks all your boxes.

Can you still use a copywriter if you don’t have tone of voice guidelines?

Absolutely! You can still work with me if you don’t know what your preferred tone of voice is. Just be prepared to answer lots of questions to help me establish the correct content tone for your business or organisation. It's all part of the process.

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