3 Tone Exercises to Make You a More Agile Writer

Here are a few exercises to help you develop your tone-forming muscles. Note that I’m not going over what tone is in much any depth here, so hit the Googles first if you need a review.

A Quick Review

Tone is the attitude of a writer toward a subject. Tone can involve factors like:

  • Formality/informality
  • Sarcasm/sincerity
  • Kindness/cruelty
  • Energy/lethargy

Writers convey tone through factors like diction (word choice) and sentence structure.

Tone Exercise 1: Write Sales Content for Someone Else

Imagine you’re a copywriter for a painting company in the Denver, Colorado, area. This company paints home and business interiors and exteriors as well as hangs wallpaper. They want their website to be professional but with a casual tone. Their painters are master craftspeople, with 10 or more years of experience each.

Write about 100 words for the home page of this client’s website, describing and selling their services. Remember that you’re trying to inhabit someone else’s reality, but don’t worry too much. Just do your best, and spend no more than 5 minutes on this exercise.

Tone Exercise 2: Become a Fictional Character

For about 5 minutes, write a scene from the perspective of one of these well-known fictional characters:

  • Han Solo
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Gandalf
  • Hermione Granger
  • Regina George

Create a tone that fits this character’s perspective.

Tone Exercise 3: Identify the Strategies You Used

Now, dissect the choices you made in the previous exercises. What kinds of words did you use? What was your sentence structure like? What verb forms (progressive tenses, for example) did you repeatedly rely on?

Just as importantly, what effect did those choices have on each piece? If you were to revise and polish these pieces, what stylistic choices would you stand by, and what would you change? Did you create the tones you meant to create?

Finally, compare and contrast your fiction writing and copywriting styles. Is your style flexible enough that you can create tones for various situations? If not, how can you differentiate your tones more?

(If you need ideas, try simplifying your copywriting. In general, copywriting uses more direct, simple sentences and leans less on description than fiction does.)

What did you learn about your writing? What stylistic elements will you pay more attention to as you continue your work in progress?











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