Tone and voice. I would be willing to bet that those are words that many people haven't heard since the last time they took a creative writing class in school. But for those of you looking to journey into the world of Inbound Marketing and content creation, they are words that you will need to get reacquainted with in a hurry. Because you can't create good Inbound Marketing Content (or any good content really) without them.
So, what are tone and voice? What is the difference between them?
Voice is your style, your point of view, your unique personality that shines through in your writing. When you write do you find yourself asking a lot of questions or using certain abbreviations? What kinds of words do you use? Do you have a specific type of phrasing you stick with?
It's because of voice that two people can write about the same exact topic and end up with two completely different pieces. Your voice is your identity. That is why it is important to try and use a consistent voice in everything that you write; whether it's an email, a blog post, or a social media post. Readers will get used to your style and count on it when reading anything you send out.
Your voice also helps you draw readers in. Think about it in terms of vocal communication. Your voice isn't just recognizable by sound, but by the words you say and how you say them. In writing, your voice might strike a reader as familiar. You might remind readers of themselves or close friends or family members. Your voice is what allows readers to identify with you, making them come back for more!
You could consider tone a subset of voice. If voice is the personality of a story, then tone is the mood. Do you want to address your reader in a way that is formal and professional or witty and informal? Do you want readers to feel angry, inspired, curious?
It is important to ask yourself: "What do I want readers to feel when reading this piece?" Or better yet: "What do I want readers to do when they finish reading." Where voice is important to making readers feel comfortable in familiarity, your tone should make readers uncomfortable to some degree. They should feel enough of something to change some aspect of their life.
And now a short example...
Let's say you are the marketing director for a college and you need to find a way to increase student enrollment. You have been pondering which voice to use when talking to students who haven't selected a major yet:
- the voice of a parent, gently guiding students to a better future
- the voice of a fellow classmate, letting potential students know that they have a friend who has been there
- the voice of a coach, getting potential students motivated and ready to go
The mother might say: It is okay, if you don't have it all figured out, you will get there. You just have to try new things!
The fellow student might say: I get it, I've been there. Choosing your major isn't easy, but your major isn't going to decide your whole life.
The coach might say: Listen, you aren't going to have it figured out right away, but that's fine. Go out there, try some classes, and see what sticks. You'll find what is right for you in no time.
Three different voices, but the tone is the exact same for each. It is a tone of condolence and hope.
As you can see, knowing what voice and tone to use in your writing is all about knowing your audience and knowing what they like and will respond to. If you need a little help figuring these things out download our Target Profile Worksheet! It will help you identify your personas more closely, giving you some insight into what they might find appealing !