I’m a web developer by profession, but a writer by passion. Consequently, there’s a little piece of me that is secretly pleased when a client sends through some website content that needs some…“revising”. Recently, while I was shuffling around some words for a client, I got to thinking about Tone. It’s tricky to define, and even harder to recognise – especially in your own work.
Of course, I turned to my old friend Merriam-Webster:
If we’re talking specifically about digital communication, I’d add a few more elements into the mix too. Your “voice” doesn’t just come across in your words and phrases anymore, but in everything that surrounds them. For instance:
Good question! But the thing is: it depends on your business. It depends on your audience, and the kind of relationship you want with them. Are you selling big-ticket products to high-rollers, or cultivating long-term relationships with tradies?
It depends on you as a person, too. Are you particularly formal and precise? Or a salt-of-the-earth type? If you were going to write a long, detailed technical spec, would it flow like a river? Or would it be like getting blood from a stone?
The secret is that there’s no Perfect Tone for Websites™, but there is a Perfect Tone for You – and you probably use it already! Have a think about how you relate to your customers away from the website – in person, over the phone, even over email. Does your manner at the counter (or the front desk, or the office, etc.) consistently get you business? Then that’s your “sweet spot”. That’s the tone you want online, too.
Once you’ve decided on a tone, you need to stick with it. Wear it like a pair of glasses, then go through everything you produce to see if it fits. Anything that doesn’t gets chucked or tweaked. Be a ruthless editor. Be like the smart people on social media – before you click that “Post” button, think for a second: how will it influence the reader? how will it impact the reader’s impression of my business?
There are a host of great resources online, too. Here are three that I’ve used a tonne:
It might take some time to get into the swing of things – and it does take some work to make sure that you’re writing consistently – but it’s worth it. Your website is an extension of your business (except when it’s your whole business!), and it’s important that it reflects the experience that your client will get from you.
And when it really comes to it, there’s nothing worse than a beautifully-designed, carefully-crafted website full of terribly-written text. And as much as I may enjoy writing your content for you, I should probably get back to building websites.