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  • Helen Goodwin

What is tone of voice anyway?

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

You might have heard the phrase “tone of voice” bandied about when it comes to your website or social media copy. But what is it and how do you use it to your advantage?

Put simply, your business’s tone of voice is about how you sound – it’s not about what you say but how you say it. In essence, it reflects your brand personality and values. Think about what personality you want to send out into the world – do you want to come across as authoritative? Down to earth? Warm? Honest? Witty? Playful?

Ideally, your tone of voice should be unique, memorable and recognisable. There’s SO much content out there, and a distinctive brand voice will help cut through the clutter and stand out from your competition. By using the same kind of language as your ideal customer, you’ll be one step closer to connecting with your audience. So, if someone is scrolling through social media and comes across one of your posts, they’ll know it’s you before they even see your business name.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Go-To Skincare

Example copy: “There is one animal Go-To extensively tests on, but that’s the founder Zoë, and she totally asked for it.”

“We make cute, clean and worry-free skin care that won’t piss your skin off.”

“So much of skin care is intimidating, complicated and confusing. [Zoë] wondered if it could all be a LOT simpler. Less stressful. If it could give people confidence, rather than strip them of it (and their cash.) Holy shit, it could even be FUN!

Tone of voice: conversational (like it’s your best friend talking to you), fun, light-hearted, cheeky, authentic, irreverent, not afraid to swear.

Founder Zoë Foster-Blake is a media personality in her own right and this website is an extension of her personality. It stands out in a crowded market because it’s quirky, fun and brings a lightness to something – skincare – that other brands take far too seriously.

Three Birds Renovations

“Imagine that – actually loving the renovation process!”

“We’ll help you suss out your budget, priorities, and any approvals you’ll need.”

“If you said “yes way, rosé!” to any of the above, then the reno school is for you!”

Tone of voice: aspirational, warm, playful, fun.

For your brand, using words or phrases like “suss” and “yes way, rosé!” might not be right. But for the Three Birds Renovations target audience, this helps endear the brand to them. It makes the renovation process seem less scary and more accessible.


Example copy: “As we recover, reopen, and rebuild, it’s time to rethink the importance of Trust. At no time has it been more tested or more valued in our leaders and each other. Trust is the basis for connection. Trust is all-encompassing. Physical. Emotional. Digital. Financial. Ethical. A nice-to-have is now a must-have; a principle is now a catalyst; a value is now invaluable.”

Tone of voice: authoritative, professional, short, sharp, direct.

It’s not just the words they’ve chosen that conveys this tone of voice. It’s also the rhythm and sentence length. Sentences are deliberately short and punchy, written to appeal to the busy CEO who is short on time and wants a solution – fast. This is also a B2B website (business to business, so they’re not targeting consumers), and this automatically lends itself to a more formal tone. You wouldn’t find many B2C websites using a semi-colon, but this is appropriate for Deloitte.

Minter Ellison

Example copy:With a purpose lens and deep industry expertise, our teams support clients including government, private and publicly listed companies, and small and large businesses in Australia and overseas.”

“We offer a range of solutions – for example, providing end-to-end support throughout the lifecycle of a deal; mitigating risk in a range of complex procurement scenarios; providing support and advice on competition and insolvency issues, and leading Boards and executive leadership teams through their ESG priorities, safe workplaces and governance.

Tone of voice: formal, conservative, dry – dare I say it’s a little stuffy and a bit of a snooze-fest?

This is another B2B website (this time for a law firm) and look – there’s another semi-colon. This website copy is a little dry and doesn’t convey much personality. It also uses corporate jargon and acronyms, in an effort to ‘talk the talk’ and appeal to their clients. It’s not the tone of voice I enjoy writing, but it probably works for them.

Think about your brand. Is there a disconnect between what you want to portray and how you sound? Do you need a tone of voice guide to help guide your content, no matter how many people write for your brand? Or would you prefer to outsource some cornerstone content to get you started?

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