Style Diction and Tone: Reading Comprehension Review Study Guide (page 3)

Updated on Aug 24, 2011

Degree of Formality:

  • Letter A is formal.
  • Letter B is formal, but not as formal as letter A.


  • Letter A uses the word client.
  • Letter B uses the words valued customer.

Now that you've seen the differences in style between the two letters, you see that they have very different tones. But what about the style creates the tone? Letter A's short sentences give it a choppy sound, making it less inviting than letter B's longer, more friendly sentences. Letter B's description gives a sense that the writer has taken time to think about the letter and the problem. Again, letter A is much more formal and detached from the situation. Lastly, letter B calls the reader a valued customer instead of just a client. This shows some level of caring on the part of the letter's author.

As you can see, there isn't just one thing that determines the tone. Many things decide how the reader feels about what's being said and what the author hopes to communicate. The types of sentences used, the diction, and how something is said, all contribute to the tone in writing.

Just as in speech, there are many tones a writer could use. Here are a few words that might describe a writer's tone:

cheerful sarcastic
complimentary ironic
hopeful wistful
sad foreboding
gloomy playful
apologetic sincere
critical insincere
insecure authoritative
disrespectful threatening
humorous indifferent


A PIECE OF writing can have more than one tone.


PICK A TONE from the list and write a paragraph using that tone. Read it over when you're finished. Notice the words you used and how you structured your sentences.


Style, diction, and tone are all elements of writing that are a little more subtle than elements like structure and point of view. Style is a combination of sentence structure, degree of detail and description, degree of formality, and diction. Are the sentences long or short? Is there a lot of detail or almost none? Is the writing formal or informal? What words has the author carefully chosen? These are examples of questions to ask yourself when considering the style of a passage.

Diction refers to an author's choice of words. Some words, when used in certain contexts, have certain connotations, or implied meanings. Denotation is the exact meaning of the word. So be sure to notice how an author uses words. It's important for your ability to understand what the author is trying to tell you.

Tone is how something is said. There are many different ways to say the same thing. When you read something, notice its tone. Is it humorous or sincere? Is it angry or apologetic? Is it thoughtful or indifferent? You get the idea.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Style Diction and Tone: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

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