Controlling your tone of voice volume knobs

by / Wednesday, 15 April 2015 / Published in Uncategorized

Tone of voice is all about two factors: the way your words sound and the way they make your readers feel. We’re going to focus on the first of these.

To get your tone of voice sounding right, you have to take care of both your sentence structure and flow, as well as your word choices. It follows that you must also be able to adjust the volume knobs on the sound.

Deciding how far to turn the knob, and in which direction, depends upon what you want to emphasise (by turning the volume up) or play down. In making these selections, your tone of voice needs to reflect your brand personality attributes or traits: those elements of your corporate persona that sum up your organisation in the minds of your audience.

So, when I ask my training delegates to talk about Apple, they often say “stylish” or  “innovative” because these are the traits that the company projects in its communications – and in its products, retail outlets and so on.

I’ve never seen the words “stylish” and “innovative” in any of Apple’s marketing materials, and yet they’re the adjectives that people use to describe the company. Why? Because these are the words that are evoked in Apple’s tone of voice, the way it works and its products.

Adjusting your volume

As long as you know what your brand stands for, and which personality traits you want to portray, you can decide which attributes to push or hold back upon.

For example, let’s say that one of your brand’s traits is “fashionable” yet you also have an established history. You’ve decided to target the older demographic with your audience, so your communications play down the trendy elements and focus on your heritage, since you know this will appeal more to your readers in this case.

Other factors can also influence your decision about the volume levels. When RichWords provided tone of voice training to international relocations and assignment management company Crown Worldwide, it became clear that different countries needed to use different volume levels for different personality traits.

So, rather than dictating what the levels should be from the centre, we encouraged the training delegates from around the world to decide which traits to dial up (or down). They based these decisions upon their intimate knowledge of the local culture and what they thought would work best with their national and regional audiences.

If you’d like help establishing your brand personality, translating it into a coherent tone of voice, and figuring out which volume knobs to adjust, please contact


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