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In this case, our message is, “An error has occurred.” Our tone will be how we communicate that message.
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.
These findings confirmed our hypothesis that variations along the 4 tone dimensions would produce measurable differences in users’ impressions of the sites.
To see how these 4 dimensions of tone can be varied to create different effects, let’s consider a small piece of copy that almost every content team has to consider at some point — an error message.
At the core of every piece of writing is the message — the information we’re trying to communicate to our user.
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.
Tone of voice is the way we tell our users how feel about our message, too.Many academic writers mistake a scholarly tone for dull, boring language or a mixture of jargon and multisyllabic, "intelligent-sounding" words.Academic writing, however, does not need to be complicated nor lacking in style (APA, 2010, section 3.07); instead, it can be both engaging and clear. This means that everything you say must be unbiased, scholarly, and supported by evidence. These casual expressions may be appropriate in personal emails, but they are inappropriate in research papers. The second is revised to keep a formal tone: Informal: When I got my students to think science was wicked cool, their test scores went through the roof!The only variable we varied was the tone of voice: the two samples in a pair corresponded to different combinations of tone-of-voice dimensions.For example, in the security industry, one sample was funny, casual, irreverent, and enthusiastic; and the other one was serious, neutral on the casual scale, respectful, and matter-of-fact.You’ll also notice that many of these lists are huge, some with hundreds of words.We decided to design a manageable web-specific tool that content strategists could use to create simple tone profiles for a company’s online presence.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.It’s a fairly traditional, straightforward message. (Remember, the irreverence here is the speaker’s attitude towards the subject, not necessarily towards the audience.) We wanted to make sure changes in the 4 tone-of-voice dimensions would be noticeable to our users, and not just theoretical concepts.Our samples used realistic tones that we could reasonably expect to find in real sites.For all but the most extreme and exaggerated tones, you should expect to find similar effect sizes in your own tone variations.