How to Adjust Your Tone
There’s no shortcut to adjusting your tone. Mainly, it’s just a matter of becoming familiar with the styles of different kinds of writing, through lots of reading. As with most things about writing, you need to read a lot, and pay attention to the ways people use words, if you want to have great control of tone.
If you want to make your tone more formal, try reading examples of business letters (especially cover letters), legal briefs, and scholarly papers. Notice how these forms of writing sound very different from the way people naturally talk. They do not use colloquialisms or slang terms, for one thing. They also tend to avoid contractions such as “we’re” and “isn’t.” It’s also typical to stick with the third person in formal tone (using he/she/they, etc.), but it is OK to use “I” every now and again if it makes sense for the point you are making.
If you want to produce a more informal tone, you should pay more attention to the ways people express themselves in natural conversation. However, there are many aspects of natural speech that you probably don’t want to put into writing (such as the “ums” and fragmentary sentences). The informal tone in writing reproduces the overall feel of conversation, but usually doesn’t show all the repetition and broken half-phrases and “ums,” “ers,” and “likes”!
When to Use Different Tones
How do you know what tone to use in a piece of writing? That entirely depends on your purposes for that piece of writing; and the most important thing to keep in mind is how your reader will feel about it. You have to put yourself in your reader’s shoes and imagine how the writing will sound to them and what kind of impression you want to make. Here are some of the qualities of formal and informal tone.
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