Here we describe a framework of 4 dimensions that can be used to analyze or plan a site’s tone of voice.Then we conducted qualitative usability testing and online surveys, measuring the impact of those tone qualities on users.
As can be seen, choosing words based on their connotation can make for two very different tones.
The words you choose to describe the beauty of a paradise should connote positive images (as does the word “beauty here), but those describing the gloom of a slum require should connote negative images (as does the word “gloom”).
Summary: A website’s tone of voice communicates how an organization feels about its message.
The tone of any piece of content can be analyzed along 4 dimensions: humor, formality, respectfulness, and enthusiasm.
That process produced a list of 37 website-specific tone words.
We then iteratively refined that list, by: Tones could fall at either extreme of each dimension, or somewhere in between.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.In preparation for an upcoming study, we used these 4 dimensions to create paired tone-of-voice samples for made-up websites from 4 industries (2 samples per industry).A quick Google search for “tone-of-voice words” will surface lists of hundreds of words used to describe literary tones.(Most of them come from websites for undergraduate English courses).Each website’s tone of voice could be expressed as a point in the 4-dimensional space described by these dimensions.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.” For instance, the word “thin” can be expressed in different ways: imagine a friend saying, “WOW, you’re so slender, you look amazing!” versus “oh my God, you’re so skinny, do you ever eat?Read the following two sentences:“The woman slammed the door behind her, threw her bag on the floor and slumped into a kitchen chair, where she poured herself a much-needed glass of wine.”***“The woman closed the door behind her, hung up her bag and perched herself in a kitchen chair, where she poured herself a well-deserved glass of wine.” The first sentence uses words with negative connotation—slammed, threw, slumped, much-needed; giving the feeling that the woman had a difficult day.The second uses positive and neutral—closed, hung up, perched, much-deserved—giving the feeling that the woman had a long but successful day.