Establishing Tone with Word Choice Help

Updated on Sep 2, 2011

Establishing a Persuasive Tone and Writing Style

Once you have a thesis that hooks your reader and compels him or her to continue reading, making the rest of your writing as convincing and strong as your opening argument is just as important. This lesson will help you to establish a persuasive tone and writing style by choosing the best words and expressions for you and your material.

In Writing a First Draft Help, we saw that brevity was important when writing a thesis statement and that fewer words make a statement more powerful. Less is more. The shorter and more succinct your ideas are, the better. The same principle holds true for establishing and setting the tone for your paper. What is tone? The tone of a work or piece of writing is usually defined as the mood that a writer conveys to the reader. In other words, is your paper written in a convincing, strong, authoritative tone or is the tone hesitant and uncertain? Does the author seem knowledgeable and in command of the material, or at the mercy of it? Even though you have spent a great deal of time researching your paper, you do not have to be a professional, full-time historian to sound credible. Writing persuasively is simply a matter of setting the right tone immediately. It's similar to the way you established your thesis statement in the opening of your paper, and it will make your paper as powerful as possible.

Using Professional Language

When a lawyer presents a case in court, he or she does not appear before the judge and jury in pajamas, hair uncombed, with unsorted papers, and a tattered briefcase. Similarly, any good lawyer would not want a defendant, plaintiff, or witness to appear disheveled. In fact, most attorneys tell clients to wear formal clothing when they appear in court and to look presentable on the day of their trial. This is why you often see defendants, plaintiffs, and witnesses alike wearing suits or dresses and looking polished. Visual presentation, even if it isn't verbal, often speaks volumes about a person and, fortunately or unfortunately, we all make judgments about a person's character based on appearance. In a sense, as author of your paper, you can think of yourself as the attorney and your paper as your client. In other words, imagine that you have been hired to defend your client (or prove your thesis statement). Naturally, you would want to present your case and your material in the most convincing fashion. For example, let's return to your thesis statement. Here are two possible ways that you can present your case (your paper) about J.F.K. to the jury (your reader). You can say:

Example A

"In my opinion, after a great deal of thought and research (in which I read many books on this subject), I really think the J.F.K. assassination was not the result of a government conspiracy as many people seem to believe, but I've decided that instead, his murder was the unfortunate result of the actions of a lone gunman."

Now, take out all the qualifying statements such as "In my opinion," "I think," and, "I believe," and reword your statement so that it might sound something like this:

Example B

"President John F. Kennedy's assassination was not the work of an organized conspiracy but instead the result of a calculated plan carried out by a lone assailant."

Which statement sounds more convincing? Which statement takes the least amount of time from your judge and jury? Essentially, both examples contain the same factual information; however, the tones of the two statements differ. Example B sounds more convincing because the language and the writing are stronger. In other words, the "lawyer" (or writer) is not hesitant, equivocal, wishy-washy, or undecided. The statement is worded in such a way that it sounds like an authoritative, indisputable fact. This kind of tone is important to establish throughout your paper so that your reader never doubts your evidence or your argument even for a single second.

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