by Carlos Luis Delgado
Tone, in writing, is about how the writer presents information. What are the writer’s attitudes toward their audience and their writing? How does a writer convey an emotion or point of view without telling the audience directly?
Defining the tone of your article, blog post, script, or any other type of copy ensures that you’re actively engaging with your audience’s feelings. Research shows audiences are more likely to remember, share, and discuss emotionally engaging content long after they’ve encountered the content.
This is great for advertising! And, since most client briefs will provide you with a tone, you will often have an emotional direction from the start.
But, how do you use tone in your copywriting?
The client brief requested a “Funny, Wacky Tone” and uses a cartoon plumber as their company logo. Voted the Most Trustworthy Plumber in Milwaukee 2021.
Target Demographic: 35–55 Homeowners
VOICE DIRECTION: Warm, trustworthy.
ANNOUNCER: When your plumbing isn’t working, make sure to call Bob’s Plumbing! Voted The Most Trustworthy Plumber in Milwaukee 2021, you’ll get a guaranteed, easy-peasy consultation and repair — at a fair price!
While humor is subjective, it’s fair to say that the above example does not read as wacky, let alone funny. Instead, this opening works to establish trust and comfort. The tone feels sincere with its “Warm” voice direction and the light-hearted language, e.g., “easy-peasy consultation.”
Here, the tone does not match the client’s request. Remember, tone is your attitude towards the audience and the product/business.
How do we fix this?
Start by asking yourself these questions:
- Why am I writing this copy?
- Who is my audience, and what do I need them to understand?
- How do I want my audience to feel after engaging with this copy?
Let’s revisit Bob’s Plumbing, answering these questions.
Why am I writing this copy? To help Bob’s Plumbing get more clients.
Who is my audience, and what do I need them to understand? I’m writing for homeowners between the ages of 35–55. I need them to understand that Bob is a reliable plumber with a wacky sense of humor.
How do I want my audience to feel about the copy? The client brief requested “funny, wacky.” So, I need my copy to go beyond the obvious. I want the audience to feel like Bob is a Super Mario-like character, fun and bigger than life, willing to jump on dinosaurs and throw turtle shells if it means fixing my leaky pipes.
Let’s edit our original example using our answers!
SOUND EFFECT: Dragon roars, fire blasts
VOICE DIRECTION: Shocked
HOMEOWNER: It sounds like that Septic Tank Dragon is back! Oh, the smell! If only there was a brave knight I could count on?
SOUND EFFECT: A van pulls up, screeching tires
HOMEOWNER: Could it be? The most trustworthy plumber in all of Milwaukee?
VOICE DIRECTION: Heroic, sing-songy
BOB: Since 2021! Worry not, dear homeowner. Sir Bob from Bob’s Plumbing is here. Steer clear! My consultations may be free and breezy, but my rooter and wrenches will slay that brown dragon — easy peasy!
Incredible! Here we can feel a significant change in the tone compared to the first example. We added a sound effect to set an expectation with the audience. We used Voice Directions to create a distinction between our characters. One is concerned, while the other is silly. The drama and humor come from these opposing characteristics. Finally, we gave Bob’s dialogue a slight rhyme scheme, which adds to his heroic feel and the overall silliness of the ad.
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And as always, use your best judgment. Remember to adhere to the basic guidelines, read the brief, and listen to feedback provided by the editors. We are available to answer any questions you have.