Reading and Writer's Tone Practice

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Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Review for these concepts can be found at Reading and Writer's Tone Help.

Reading and Writer's Tone Practice

Look at several sentences and paragraphs to see if you can correctly identify their tone. As you read them, think of how the paragraphs sound. You may even want to read them out loud. With what kind of voice do you read? What's your tone? Use your instincts, as well as your observations, to choose the correct tone for each paragraph. Answers and explanations come immediately after the practice paragraphs.


  1. Mr. Jones, since you obviously appear to know everything, would you like to come up here and teach this class for me?
    1. sarcastic
    2. critical
    3. disrespectful
  2. Did you see what he just did? My goodness!
    1. insecure
    2. humorous
    3. surprised
  3. Your essay? Oh, it was just fabulous. Really, I've never seen anything like it.
    1. insincere
    2. critical
    3. disrespectful
  4. This is one of the best essays I've ever seen. It's clear, concise, and convincing.
    1. complimentary
    2. wistful
    3. hopeful
  5. Bill had stayed up all night preparing for this presentation. He had everything ready: charts, graphs, lists, statistics. This was the biggest meeting of his career. He was ready. He smiled as the cab pulled up to 505 Park Avenue, and he gave the taxi driver an extra large tip. He entered the building confidently and pushed #11 on the elevator. Suddenly, as the doors of the elevator closed, he realized that he had left his briefcase in the cab.
    1. cheerful
    2. ironic
    3. critical


  1. a. Since it is generally understood that students don't "know everything," it is clear that the teacher doesn't mean what she says in a literal sense. Teachers are there to instruct students because the students need to learn from their teacher. Therefore, the teacher is using sarcasm to point out that the student isn't listening to instruction because he or she feels they have nothing to learn from the teacher.
  2. c. The exclamation mark that follows the question is a clue revealing that the observer is surprised. Exclamation points are often used to denote surprise.
  3. a. Because of the opening question and because the next sentences are so vague, a reader can assume that the writer either hasn't read the essay or didn't like it. Also, really indicates that the writer is afraid the reader won't be convinced by the statement, so he tries to emphasize it. Furthermore, "I've never seen anything like it" isn't necessarily a compliment—it could really mean many different things, not all of them good.
  4. a. Unlike question 5, this paragraph really is complimentary. The writer specifies three things that make the reader's essay exceptional: It's "clear, concise and convincing." The use of more specific adjectives makes this writer's praise seem sincere.
  5. b. Irony is the mood created when things happen in a manner that is opposite of what was expected to happen. Here, Bill had prepared diligently for the big meeting and had everything ready. But contrary to his expectations of having a very successful presentation, he had no presentation at all because he left his materials in the cab. The irony is heightened by his confidence.

More practice exercises for this concept can be found at Reading Language and Style Practice Test.

Test your knowledge at Reading Comprehension Final Practice Test.

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