Establishing Tone of Voice

Tone of voice represents how we want people to feel about our digital products after reading our copy and messaging, if we’re not deliberate in establishing a particular tone of voice, we can end up with a random assortment of inconsistent voices. In our experience, follow these five steps to establish tone of voice and evaluate the impression it leaves on your users.

Start by looking at your current content and find pieces that already demonstrate the tone of voice that you want. Print out the examples and post them up on a wall, then grouped them into related clusters based on how they sound. Think about the personality traits of real people. And if you’re a digital product was a person, how would you describe them? Label each cluster of content with a descriptive tone, words such as friendly, polished or trustworthy. Next, spend three minutes coming up with even more tone words that represent personality traits you want in your digital product. Right? Each positive tone word on a Post-it note and group them in a column labeled Positive Tones. Then spend three more minutes brainstorming tone words you’re trying to avoid with your copy, such as unprofessional, sarcastic or rude. Write each tone word on a Post-it note and group them in a column labeled Negative Tones. If doing this exercise with multiple team members, come together after six minutes to discuss the tone, words found in each column point out any similarities or differences in each column and decide on three tone words that reflect the personality you want and three tone words your product could be mistaken for that you’re trying to avoid. The last step is to test your copy to see if users describe it using a similar tone. Word to those you desire, write shorter excerpts of copy and place them in a low fidelity wireframe. Remove all colors and brand names to avoid bias, and ask users to read the passages of copy. Then give users a list of product reaction words and ask them to select those that best describe the passage.

Your primary goal is to consider if the tone conveyed by your content matches your brand personality and the tone of voice you want to convey. If it doesn’t modify the content to move it closer to your goal and test again.

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