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    Different Tones in a Text

    Tone is the author’s attitude toward the topic. The author’s attitude is expressed through the words and details he or she selects. For example, textbooks are usually written with an objective tone which includes facts and reasonable explanations. The objective tone is matter-of-fact and neutral. The details are mostly facts. On the other hand, fiction and personal essays are usually written with a subjective tone. A subjective tone uses words that describe feelings, judgments, or opinions. The details are likely to include experiences, senses, feelings, and thoughts.

    Two Types of Tone

    1. Objective tone is impartial. It does not show any feelings for or against a topic; therefore, it is unbiased or neutral. Often objective tone uses higher-level words and avoids pronouns such as I and you, creating a formal tone.
    2. Subjective tone is personal, biased, emotional, and often informal.

    Note: Tone is expressed through the words and details the author selects. To determine the author’s tone, you must notice how these words and details are used within the writing.

    Examples of Tone

    The following statements express different attitudes about a shabby apartment. Six different tones are used: optimistic, bitter, tolerant, sentimental, humorous, and objective.

    This place may be shabby, but since both of my children were born while we lived here, it has a special place in my heart.

    The tone is sentimental. “It has a special place in my heart,” expresses tender emotions.

    This isn’t the greatest apartment in the world, but it’s not really that bad.

    The tone is tolerant. The words “not really that bad” show that the writer accepts the situation while recognizing that it could be better.

    If only there were some decent jobs out there, I wouldn’t be reduced to living in this miserable dump.

    The tone is bitter. The writer presents a situation that forces him or her to live in a “miserable dump.”

    This place does need some repairs, but I’m sure the landlord will be making improvements sometime soon.

    The tone is optimistic. The writer is expecting the apartment to be improved soon.

    When we move away, we’re planning to release three hundred cockroaches and tow mice, so we can leave the place exactly as we found it.

    The tone is humorous. The writer claims to be planning a comic revenge on the landlord by returning the apartment to the terrible condition it was in when the tenants moved in.

    This is the apartment we live in. It provides shelter.

    The tone is objective. The writer does not express feelings about the apartment. He simply states facts.

    Commonly-used Tone

    1. Accusatory – charging of wrongdoing
    2. Apathetic – indifferent due to lack of energy or concern
    3. Awe – solemn wonder
    4. Bitter – exhibiting strong animosity as a result of pain or grief
    5. Cynical – questions the basic sincerity and goodness of people
    6. Condescension; condescending – a feeling of superiority
    7. Callous – unfeeling, insensitive to feelings of others
    8. Contemplative – studying, thinking, reflecting on an issue
    9. Critical – finding fault
    10. Choleric – hot-tempered, easily angered
    11. Contemptuous – showing or feeling that something is worthless or lacks respect
    12. Caustic – intense use of sarcasm; stinging, biting
    13. Conventional – lacking spontaneity, originality, and individuality
    14. Disdainful – scornful
    15. Didactic – author attempts to educate or instruct the reader
    16. Derisive – ridiculing, mocking
    17. Earnest – intense, a sincere state of mind
    18. Erudite – learned, polished, scholarly
    19. Fanciful – using the imagination
    20. Forthright – directly frank without hesitation
    21. Gloomy – darkness, sadness, rejection
    22. Haughty – proud and vain to the point of arrogance
    23. Indignant – marked by anger aroused by injustice
    24. Intimate – very familiar
    25. Judgmental – authoritative and often having critical opinions
    26. Jovial – happy
    27. Lyrical – expressing a poet’s inner feelings; emotional; full of images; song-like
    28. matter-of-fact- -accepting of conditions; not fanciful or emotional
    29. Mocking – treating with contempt or ridicule
    30. Morose – gloomy, sullen, surly, despondent
    31. Malicious – purposely hurtful
    32. Objective – an unbiased view-able to leave personal judgments aside
    33. Optimistic – hopeful, cheerful
    34. Obsequious – polite and obedient in order to gain something
    35. Patronizing – air of condescension
    36. Pessimistic – seeing the worst side of things; no hope
    37. Quizzical – odd, eccentric, amusing
    38. Ribald – offensive in speech or gesture
    39. Reverent – treating a subject with honor and respect
    40. Ridiculing – slightly contemptuous banter; making fun of
    41. Reflective – illustrating innermost thoughts and emotions
    42. Sarcastic – sneering, caustic
    43. Sardonic – scornfully and bitterly sarcastic
    44. Satiric – ridiculing to show weakness in order to make a point, teach
    45. Sincere – without deceit or pretense; genuine
    46. Solemn – deeply earnest, tending toward sad reflection
    47. Sanguineous – optimistic, cheerful
    48. Whimsical – odd, strange, fantastic; fun
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