Tone of voice is the way we tell our users how feel about our message, too.
Despite the importance of tone, advice about it tends to be vague: “Be consistent. Be unique.” So, we wondered, what are the broader qualities that make up a tone?
In literature, the tone of voice refers to the author’s feelings towards the subject, as expressed through the writing itself.
Writing for the web is obviously different from writing prose (or at least it should be, since web users read very little.) Still, every scrap of writing on a page (from body copy to button labels and other UX copywriting) contributes to the tone of voice we’re using to speak to our users. It’s the way in which we communicate our personality.
First, let’s try a serious, formal, respectful, and matter-of-fact error message. Now we’ve taken the error message’s tone to casual and enthusiastic.
We’re not trying to make users laugh, or using any strong emotion in the message. If we add an attempt at humor and a little irreverence, we’ll have taken the same message to a totally different tone of voice.
For all but the most extreme and exaggerated tones, you should expect to find similar effect sizes in your own tone variations.
It would be rare for a writing style to collect scores at the outermost limits of our tone scales and still be effective for business purposes: you want to emphasize your chosen tonal qualities without making them dominate your writing to the extent that the content becomes excessive and stops communicating the underlying meaning in favor of pure style.
Decide what combination of dimensions makes sense best for your company and think about strategies to implement this tone of voice.
When you’re defining your tone for a whole site or a specific piece of content, start with these four high-level dimensions first.