When we speak, the words we use, the details of what we’re saying, our body language, and the inflection of our voice lets listeners infer how we feel. If we’re being sarcastic, feel angry, happy, or bored, it will usually be evident by the way we express ourselves.
Readers infer an author’s attitude by the way a story or article is written. Word choices, sentence length and structure, imagery, and other stylistic clues convey the attitude, or tone, of the writer. The tone can change with different scenes, helping readers to understand how the author intended them to be interpreted. For example, a suspenseful scene will have a different tone than a romantic or humorous one.
In nonfiction, the tone may be affected by the subject matter and intended audience. A research paper will usually have a very different tone than a how-to article or memoir. An article about computers will have a different tone if it’s intended for consumers than it will if it’s written for technicians.
Does the author’s tone affect your enjoyment of a book? Do you think about what tone you’re projecting when you write? Is the tone of the writing something you notice or think about when you’re reading?