A question I always ask during briefing is, ‘What’s your tone of voice?’ But do you know what this means?
One of the most common answers I get is, ‘conversational.’ And conversational is not a tone of voice.
So here I’ll share what conversational copy is, what tone of voice is and provide a couple of examples, so you’ll be clear about both…
What is conversational copy?
Conversational copy is simply writing as you’d speak. More or less anyway – you probably want to cut the ums, ahs and random sounds. But using contractions and the active tense, and writing directly to one person, are all good practices. There’s more detail here.
And as conversation is such an important part of everyday life – the primary way we communicate – it feels natural. So writing conversationally will capture your readers’ interest and they’ll feel compelled to read on.
So conversational copy is a good thing.
But as copywriting should always be written this way (in my humble opinion) a conversational style alone will not make you stand out from the crowd. That’s where your tone comes in…
What is your tone of voice?
Tone of voice is your brand’s personality shown in your written words. It conveys your attitude towards your readers and will help you connect with them, also attracting the right people to your business.
But you must…
- Be consistent: so people can recognise your voice. Only then can they say, ‘I know this voice.’ It’s impossible to remember or recognise anything that’s not consistent.
- Express your character: i.e. your unique personality that your target audience will like. Then they can say, ‘I like this voice.’ And when people like your brand’s character they’re more likely to be open to your marketing messages.
- Convey your values: your tone of voice should promise a certain type of value (e.g. your dependability or your openness) and you need to help your reader see it. When people see your brand as valuable and trustworthy it’ll bring you greater, longer-lasting selling power.
An example with different tones of voice
This example about meditation came from Wikipedia and I’ve left the first paragraph alone. But, I’ve adapted the second and third. Notice how changing the tone completely alters the feel of the text:
Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought, or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.
People have been meditating for ages man! I mean centuries. Loads of religions and philosophies have done it for years hoping to find themselves and whoosh to the outer echelons of enlightenment. The Hindus were at it way back in 1500BCE – that’s like, more than 3000 years ago! And they have some far out names for stuff, like Dhyana and Vedantism. But it’s part of the western culture now too. So you spiritual gurus, watch out – business bods and health hipsters are all doing it.
If you’re feeling out of sorts meditation can really help. Especially by reducing stress, anxiety, depression and pain. And increasing peace, perception, self-concept and wellbeing. It’s a fast moving area of research with scientists making new discoveries all the time – particularly in the areas of psychological, neurological and cardiovascular health.
And these are the different tones:
- inspiring, uplifting
- irreverent, hip
- scholarly, serious
Can you match each to the right paragraph?
What to remember when asked ‘What’s your tone of voice?
So when you’re asked, ‘What’s your tone of voice?’ remember this:
- ‘Conversational’ is a style of writing that anyone can choose to use in their copywriting to engage their readers. It’s not a tone of voice.
- Your tone is your brand’s unique personality. And you should be the only person or business expressing yourself this way.
This article is an excellent place to start if you’re not sure what your tone is. And a good copywriter will be able to help you work it out during briefing too.
For help with your copywriting please get in touch.