Dale: What’s the difference between tone and style in writing?
Andrew: Style is technique. Tone is the effect.
Al: Style is the flourish, and tone is the atmosphere. The mood. If I called it a ‘vibe’, I guess it would give this conversation an informal tone.
Dale: They’re both strategic choices — they don’t happen accidentally. You need to know what effect you’re shooting for. I think tone is probably the most artistic aspect of corporate writing.
Andrew: It’s what gives words their colour.
Al: I like to think of tone as something like the lighting in a film, or the score. It can be hard to describe, but it makes a big impact.
Dale: Sometimes clients are surprised by how easily tone can be modified. But you can change it because it’s separate from the content. It’s like the paint you put on after you build the house. If it’s not quite right, you don’t tear down the house. You try a different paint. Because of the range of projects we’ve worked on over the years, I’d say we’ve developed good ‘tonal agility’.
Andrew: And part of what makes tone right is how it reflects an organization’s character. It’s how a company’s voice comes through.
Al: Ultimately, tone has a huge effect on a reader’s take-away. As ephemeral as it can be, it really makes an impression.