seo for blog | blurred hand at laptop

The 6 Most Common Tones of Voices in Writing

One of the hardest questions I ask my clients is, “What kind of tone of voice are we going for?”

Their answer: [Long pause] “Um, I’m not really sure?”

I really need to stop being so mean and just ask them to point me to websites they like in terms of overall style – look, feel, tone of voice, etc. That usually does the trick (and by the way, the website doesn’t have to be remotely related to what you do – it just needs to click with you).

If you’re working on a new website or just want to refresh the content a bit, here are the six most common tones of voices in writing (that I’ve identified anyway) to use as a guide:

Mr. Pin-Striped Suit

As you can guess from the name, this is the most formal tone of voice of the bunch. It’s typically used by “serious,” highly-regulated industries where you just don’t fool around or you could get in deep shit.

Primary goal: Come across as professional, knowledgeable, and trustworthy and demonstrate that you take your business and clients seriously.

Who uses Mr. Pin-Striped Suit: Banks, law firms, insurance agencies, investment advisors, accountants.

The Headmistress

I can just picture the headmistress now, looking down her nose at me from behind her giant mahogany desk (even at my age, that’s a little intimidating!). This tone of voice is educated, cultured, and high-brow. The writing is breezy (never energetic) and is sprinkled with wry and witty statements.

Primary goal: Communicate good taste and refinement.

Who uses The Headmistress: Martha Stewart, Vogue


This informal style works for retailers, electricians, restaurants, consultants – you name it. Because competition is stiff no matter what your business does, it’s important to create an emotional connection with your audience.

Primary goal: Draw people in with a conversational, friendly style but make an impact with energizing language.

Who uses Dude!: Small businesses, some startups and tech companies


One thing I tell clients all the time is that you don’t need everyone to love you – just the people who you want to work with. If you are cool with letting your freak flag fly, go ahead and let that strong personality out of the bag and onto the (web) page.

Primary goal: REALLY stand out.

Who uses Letting-My-Freak-Flag-Fly: The Middle Finger Project,

Keep Calm and…

This tone of voice covers a lot of different industries (as you’ll see below), but one thing they have in common is a desire to help you feel better.

Primary goal: Soothe your frazzled nerves and restore your health (emotional, mental, or physical).

Who uses Keep Calm and…: Therapists, the healthcare industry, divorce lawyers, spas

The Earnest Hipster

Millenials have given rise to the earnest hipster tone of voice, which is compassionate, genuine, and more often that not, focused on social good (or at least the artisanal). It’s not too energetic, but it is very powerful.

Primary goal: Connect with the audience around a shared passion or your mission.

Who uses The Earnest Hipster: TOMS, Whole Foods


What are some of the more oddball tones of voices you’ve come across in your travels around the Interwebs?

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.