What Exactly is “Tone of Voice”?

October 23rd 2014       Sally Ormond       marketing writing, tone of voice, web copywriting, writing with personality

Tone of voice is one of those terms you hear bandied about by marketers and copywriters, but what does it really mean?

How can a piece of writing have a voice? It doesn’t make sense…or does it?

For a moment I want you to think about your marketing writing, or copy.

What does it do?

You probably think “well, it sells.”

OK, to a certain extent that’s true, but it does more than just sell.

Take a look at your website.

Now put yourself in the shoes of your website visitors.

They don’t know anything about you, so why should they buy from you?

Because your website tells them to?


They will only buy from you if they:

  1. Like your product
  2. Like the price
  3. Like you

That last one is the most important one. They have to like and trust you before they’ll buy from you.

If they were stood in front of you, it would be easy. You’d greet them with a warm smile, bend over backwards to answer all their questions, have a bit of banter and build a relationship with them.

The problem is they’re not stood in front of you. They’re at home or work sat in front of a computer reading your website, which means they have to get the same type of experience, but without the face to face contact.


That’s where your tone of voice comes in to play.

Make your words speak for you

Your tone of voice encapsulates your personality.

It should reflect your business, its ethos and how you want to be perceived by your customers.

That’s quite a list, so how do you go about achieving it all?

The simplest way is to write as you speak (slightly toned down if you tend to use quite…err…how can I put this? exotic and colourful language). When you’re writing your copy imagine yourself sat opposite your customer. Talk to them as though you were having a coffee with them.

In that type of situation it’s unlikely you’d use acronyms, jargon or other technical terms; you’d keep things simple and that’s exactly how you should write.

You know your audience better than anyone, so you should know the tone to use. Experience has shown that something conversational and friendly will always out do ‘uber’ professional corporate speak.

The worst thing you can do is try to impress your readers with your extensive vocabulary. It doesn’t matter how educated your audience, they want to get information quickly, easily and without having to reach for a dictionary.




Tags: marketing writing, tone of voice, web copywriting, writing with personality
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