Here at the We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we are always looking for ways to build stronger bonds with our audience. And using the right voice and tone is one way to forge that connection! That’s why this week we’re sharing tips to help you recognize a clear voice and tone in your health writing.
First a little refresher course on what voice and tone mean. vote is constant. It’s an important part of your identity – an expression of personality that emerges through your writing. It’s often referred to as “brand voice” in the corporate world, but it’s not just for the Apples and Fords. Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company, a government agency, or a non-profit organization, you need a consistent voice.
But what is voice, exactly? Think about how to recognize your favorite singer, even if you’ve never heard the song before – that’s because their voice is distinctive in different songs (or in our case, health material!).
Showon the other hand, is situational. It varies based on the specific topic, context, and likely emotional state of your audience. So while the voice stays the same on a website or campaign, the tone may change slightly from page to page or from tweet to tweet.
Clear as mud? See it this way: it doesn’t matter who you talk to, you are still yourself – that’s you voice. But you wouldn’t talk to your best friend the same way you would talk to your boss, or your sworn enemy, or the teller at your bank – you vary your show based on who you talk to and what the conversation is about.
So, how do you determine the right voice and tone to use? We often define voice and tone as a series of adjectives – such as ‘kind, compassionate and sincere’. And to really bring out the nuance, it can be helpful to think about what your voice or tone is and what it isn’t.
For example, you could describe the voice of your health communication campaign as:
- Optimistic, but not naive
- Friendly, but not overly familiar
- Informative, but not dry
When it comes to tone, we need to get more specific. What is the health topic? What is the audience likely to think or feel as they read about it?
For example, a playful, quirky tone might be perfect for sharing general healthy eating tips, but it wouldn’t fit well in nutritional tips for those starting chemotherapy. In that case, the tone could be:
- Motivating, but not overly cheerful
- Reassuring, but not patronizing
- Serious, but not bad
It comes down to: To build a stronger bond with your audience, think about the voice and tone of your health material before you write.