Tone

    Tone, the overall sentiment and unwritten sense of the author's intent and view, is an important element to consider when composing any work of writing. Tone is inextricably linked to content: the tone of your work conveys your feelings and attitudes toward the subject you've chosen. Consequently, if the tone of your paper is mixed or inconsistent, it can confuse your readers. 

    When thinking about tone, consider music. Consider Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star Spangled Banner." The tone of his rendition might be called "angry" or "intense," where in the more typically-arranged versions the tone might still be "serious" but might also be "uplifting." If we recall Rosanne's now-infamous rendition of the national anthem, we might describe her tones as "sarcastic." Whatever the case, the tone adds something to the meaning of the work. It also relates to audience and to your readers' expectations (Rosanne's audience obviously did not appreciate or expect her rendition's tone). 

    Examples

    • Around campus there has been a great deal of construction, leaving parking lots overcrowded, once grassy lawns dusty and rut-marred, and the campus perpetually noisy with sawing, hammering, and over-loud trucks and tractors. There is no escape from it, not even in the library.
       
    • The campus has been buzzing with the sounds of construction; workers have been clearing lots, driving pilings, and preparing foundations for soon to be erected buildings, and trucks and tractors bustle around the work areas. Even the library is being remade, its exterior now shining glass and bright new bricks.


    Though dealing with the same subject—campus construction—and many of the same concerns, there are notable differences in the tone and intent in the above examples. In the first example, there is a focus on the negative aspects of campus construction, though the writer never explicitly says that she or he thinks this construction is a bad thing. The author's stance, however, is clearly characterized through the tonal qualities of the words chosen. 

    Consider the difference between leaving "once grassy lawns" all strewn with "ruts" in the first example and the second example's "clearing lots. " Further, look at "over-loud, " "overcrowded," and "no escape. " In the first example, the words all imply that there is something awful happening. Compare these to the second example's "preparing" and "remade" or terms such as "bustle" and "buzzing. " The connotations behind the words of the second example are more typically seen as "good," implying a pleasurable and exciting state of activity rather than an inconvenience.