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Perhaps I lowered the tone of this piece straightaway with that silly pun on ‘tune’, ‘tone’ and the Cockney sounding ‘Tone’, short for ‘Anthony’. The correct answer, by the way is ‘Antonio Banderas’. At least this demonstrates that the word tone has a lot of different meanings. I’ll establish then that in this blog post I’m primarily using tone in the second sense given in the OED – ‘the general character of a place, piece of writing, situation, etc.’ Even when we’re talking about writing though, the other senses of ‘tone’ can be relevant , particularly the sense of ‘a modulation of the voice expressing a particular feeling or mood’, especially if you’re writing a speech, but also with the senses of the word related to music and colour.

I should establish too, that I won’t use ‘tone’ to refer to the formality or informality of a piece of writing, which more properly comes under the term ‘register’.

I suppose it should go without saying that the tone of your writing should match what you’re writing, the subject and the expected readership, but there are also times when you will want to vary the tone within a piece, to fit the mood of the story for example, or to repeat something you’ve already said in a different way. So, without further preambling, here is a selection of tones you might want to play with, and an example for each:

Neutral – It’s snowing.

Sombre – Over the graves of the dead, it’s snowing.

Elegiac – Where are the snows of yesteryear? (Thanks to Rossetti)

Elegiac and FrenchMais où sont les neiges d’antan? (Merci a Villon)

Enthusiastic – Look at the wonderful snow coming down!

Hysterical – Oh wow! It’s really snowing! It’s snowing, it’s snowing, it’s snowing!

Amazed – Big fluffy flakes of snow fell from the sky!

Gloomy – And the snow, again, begins to fall, as I pull my coat tight against the cold wind.

Festive – Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (Turn that off – it’s January!)

Pastoral – As the ewe’s shelter behind the hayricks and the jackdaws fly for the safety of the woods, the now turns the green fields white.

Sarcastic – It’s snowing, is it? I wondered what all those big white things falling from the sky were.

Gleeful – Ha! Look at it snow on old Granddad Jones!

Defiant – Do your worst, mighty snow! I’m ready for you!

Messianic – I said it would snow, and thus did it snow.

Apocalyptic – Snowmageddon!

Poetic – His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. (I wish I’d written that, but it’s actually James Joyce)

More tones available from the online store! (Please let me know when that joke gets wearing.)

Challenge

Write as many variations on the sentence ‘The sun is coming out’ as you can by adopting the tones above.

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