Lesson 1

You have probably heard the expression Tone of Voice. If you tell a friend “I don’t like your tone of voice,” you are annoyed by the person’s manner of speaking. You are reacting to the sound of the spoken word.

In your daily conversations, you make inferences about people’s attitudes based on their speech - what they say and how they say it.

Imagine that you are observing the following situation. A customer in a restaurant is dissatisfied with his meal. The steak he ordered is too tough to eat. The way he phrases his complaint and the manner in which he expresses it to the waiter reveal his attitude. How would you describe the tone of each of the remarks?

  • Courteous - “Would you please return the steak to the kitchen? Tell the chef that this cut of beef is a little to tough to eat.”
  • Anger - “I refuse to pay for this steak dinner! How do you expect me to eat food that I can’t chew? Let me see the restaurant manager. Now!”
  • Sarcastic - “What animal did this steak come from? Only a power saw could cut through this meat!”

Like tone of voice in speech, tone in writing expresses an attitude. In the study of literature , Tone refers to an author’s attitude toward his or her subject. The author’s tone affects the way you respond to the subject.

When analyzing a passage for tone, ask yourself these questions:

  • What subject is the author discussing?
  • What is my overall reaction after reading the passage?
  • How does the author feel about the subject?
  • What language or descriptive details reveal the author’s attitude?