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Tone and Personal Style

Tone and Personal Style

Author: Mackenzie W

Interpret an author's tone.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, everyone. I'm Mackenzie, and today we're learning about tone and personal style. Have you ever noticed that you have your own unique way of saying things? In this tutorial, we'll learn about tone and style. We'll discuss personal style, and we'll take a look at an example of personal style.

We'll begin by discussing the definition of tone. Although it can be difficult to define, tone really refers to the attitude a writer has toward a topic of a piece of writing as demonstrated through the writing itself. And this, of course, impacts the style, which is the way that the writing sounds.

Different types of tones could include, for example, a hostile tone. Or the writer may sound thoughtful, serious. The tone may be funny. It could be judgmental. It could be joyful.

Here are three examples of different pieces of writing, all of which have different tones. Take a moment to pause the video, read the first example, unpause, and the next example will appear. Then we'll discuss.

Our first example is a piece of informal informative writing about how to prepare a recipe for créme brulée. We see here that the tone is rather lighthearted, partially based on the subject matter, which is an informal topic. We know that this is lighthearted because the author is using informal language such as "I" and "you." The author even makes a joke about the amount of calories in this particular dessert.

Our next example has a much more hostile tone. The topic of this essay is why individuals should adopt a vegan lifestyle and avoid eating meat. But the author is communicating his or her ideas in a very hostile manner. The word choice in this example especially influences the tone and the style. Using words such as "murdering innocent animals," "blood-thirsty meat eaters" makes this a very hostile piece.

And the tone of our last piece is rather analytical. The author is analyzing a theory and is doing so in a very analytical, thoughtful type of way. The is attempting to present the information in a fair and ethical manner. And that's reflected in the tone of the writing. The author's inclusion of a quotation from an expert on the topic helps to demonstrate the analytical, thoughtful tone of this piece.

We'll now discuss personal style, which is related to the tone of a piece of writing. Personal style refers to a writer's unique writing style. It's also sometimes called voice. It's important to remember that personal style takes time for writers to develop. And writers can use different types of personal styles depending on the genre and other choices that the author has made for a piece of writing.

Here are two examples from two different famous authors. The authors are very different in their personal style. Take a moment to pause the video. Read the first example. When you have finished, unpause the video and the second example will appear. Pay close attention to the personal style being used in the writing. Then we'll discuss.

Our first example is by a famous author named F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's an excerpt from an essay he wrote titled "The Crack-Up." Fitzgerald is demonstrating his own personal writing style, or voice, in a variety of ways here. The first of which is with his usage of dashes as punctuation. Notice that he has several dashes in his sentences. He's doing that on purpose to communicate a specific idea or tone in his personal style.

We also see some very lengthy sentences. Look at how long this sentence is. That's also part of his personal style. He has lengthy, elaborate sentences that are rather complex. And that's because his ideas in general are complex. When reading his work, we get some idea of how his thoughts are processing in his own head.

Here he says, "as an arrow shot from nothingness to nothingness with such force that only gravity would bring it to earth at last." That's a rather poetic statement. When we combine the poetic nature, the punctuation, the lengthy sentences, and the complex nature of the ideas he's expressing, we start to get a better idea of Fitzgerald's personal style.

Let's compare that to our next example, which is an excerpt from a piece of fiction titled "Spunk." We see much shorter sentences than we observed in the Fitzgerald example previously. We see that the words used are simpler.

And we see that Hurston is explaining her ideas in a very straightforward way, rather than making them more complex, like Fitzgerald did. But we do see that she's using word choice to communicate her personal style. She describes magnolia blossoms with a "heavy sweet odor." She uses action words, such as "whispering." She describes someone who "stood leering triumphantly." She's giving us an image of what she's describing, and that's part of her personal style.

It's OK to include your own personal style or personal voice into a piece of writing, regardless of the type of writing. Even genres that would indicate a specific audience or purpose have room for personal style. When we use personal style, we're free to do so. But we have to keep in mind our genre, audience, purpose, biases, and even the syntax of our writing to make sure that we're communicating as clearly and effectively as possible.

Here are some examples. I'm going to show you three paragraphs. They have all been written about the same topic. But each of them is written using a different personal style. Take a moment to pause the video, read the first paragraph, unpause, and the next paragraph will appear. Then we'll discuss.

Our first example is rather formal. The personal style is such that the writer is trying to communicate in a very formal way. The writer has avoided using informal terms or words. The writer is using a variety of sentence structures. And the writer uses some terms such as-- "suffer the consequences," "respondents agree," and "plaguing society." This is all part of the personal style of this writer.

The next example is written on the same topic using the same pieces of evidence as before. But the style here is just a little bit different. This example is a little less formal than the first example we just looked at.

The author is using the words "we" to communicate to the audience. The sentences here are a little less complicated. And we have a little less formal phrasing in some of our sentences, such as "collectively," "Americans think that," and "people say." You may recall that in our first example, the author wrote "respondents agree." If I compare the phrase "respondents agree" with the phrase "people say," those are specifically different, even though they're communicating almost the same idea.

And our last example is written with a very informal personal style. We really hear the author's voice coming through. It sounds as though someone is just talking to us about this topic through the ways in which the information is written.

The author uses a lot of commentary to express his or her ideas here by stating, "people are so rude," "it's not just my opinion," "it's really unfair," and "so that we live in a happier place." Again, even though the writing is on the same topic as before using the same evidence, the same statistics as before, the personal style is impacting the way that this writing sounds. And that's partially based on the tone the author has chosen for the writing.

In this tutorial, we learned about tone and style. We discussed personal style, and we looked at an example of personal style. Let your own style shine through. I'm Mackenzie. Thanks for listening.

Terms to Know
Personal Style

The unique style for a particular writer.


A writer's attitude toward the subject as conveyed through a piece of writing.