Outside of selecting specific words for their meaning, tone determines the overall attitude of a piece. Tone can be optimistic or pessimistic, complex or simple, logical or emotional. The particular tone is achieved through careful crafting of Message and choice of words. Tone contributes to the overall style of a particular communication. Through various combinations of words, anecdotes, intentions, and positions, tone can emerge as either subjective or objective.

The subjectivity or objectivity of tone is different from the stylistic voice in communications. Even institutional voices can be subjective and argue a position, as organizations can push an agenda. On the other hand, personal voices can be objective and convey just the facts. If a Speaker is representing herself, she can craft communications that are uniquely hers by using words, sentence structures and thoughts with which she is familiar. Alternatively, if a Speaker is representing her organization, she can remain herself but bring in the perspectives and positions of her organization. This may take the form of incorporating diction or tonal elements from the organization’s mission or directives into communications.

Effective communications grow from the relationship between the Speaker, the Audience, and the Message as strengthened or weakened by the medium of the Message itself. Even technical and corporate communications is not a science, and even after centuries of study and practice, there are no rules and regulations for rhetoric. However, with a foundation of strategies and continued practice, every Speaker can become an artist with language.

Here is an example of two paragraphs that communicate the same basic content, but with very different tones. In your opinion, would these Messages strengthen or weaken the relationship between the Speaker and the Audience?

Whether you like it or not, we need hydrocarbons to fuel our daily lives. This may change in the future, but at the moment, demand for oil isn’t going anywhere. And as long as that’s the case, we need agencies that make sure drillers don’t break the rules or mess up the environment. That’s where our organization comes in. We inspect drill sites to make sure everything is above board and up to code.

The energy marketplace is dynamic and new technologies are constantly being developed. The demand for hydrocarbon products is as high as ever. As long as this demand remains high, companies will profitably produce oil and gas to meet it. Considering the sensitivity of the environment, it’s important to have groups external to the industry who ensure that operations occur within the limits of existing regulation and environmental considerations. Our organization’s purpose is to inspect drill sites for compliance to state and local codes and suggest best practices that eliminate or minimize environmental impact.

Images: “Macro Photography – Colour Pencils” by Tasumi1968 licensed under CC BY NC ND 2.0 ; “Tone” by SNeG17 via Shutterstock