Tone Words

300 Words To Describe An Author’s Tone

What is tone?

Tone refers to an author’s use of words and writing style to convey his or her attitude
towards a topic. Tone is often defined as what the author feels or their attitude toward a subject or an audience. Tone is generally conveyed through the choice of words, or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject.

What the reader feels is the mood.

Tone = Attitude. Voice = Personality.

Tone      Meaning
Abashed ashamed or embarrassed;
Absurd illogical; ridiculous; silly; implausible; foolish
accusatory charging of wrong doing
Accusatory suggesting someone has done something wrong, complaining
Acerbic sharp; forthright; biting; hurtful; abrasive; severe
Admiring approving; think highly of; respectful; praising
Affectionate  showing, indicating, or
Aggressive hostile; determined; forceful; argumentative
Aggrieved indignant; annoyed; offended; disgruntled
Ambiguous  open tor having several
Ambivalent  uncertainty or fluctuation, esp.
Ambivalent having mixed feelings; uncertain; in a dilemma; undecided
Amused  pleasurably entertained, occupied,
Amused entertained; diverted; pleased
Angry incensed or enraged; threatening or menacing
Animated full of life or excitement; lively; spirited; impassioned; vibrant
Annoyed  Tcause slight irritation to
Antagonistic  acting in opposition; opposing,
Anxious  full of mental distress or uneasiness
Apathetic  having or showing little or no
apathetic indifferent due to lack of energy or concern
Apathetic showing little interest; lacking concern; indifferent; unemotional
Apologetic  containing an apology or excuse
Apologetic full of regret; repentant; remorseful; acknowledging failure
Appreciative  feeling or expressive of
Appreciative grateful; thankful; showing pleasure; enthusiastic
Apprehensive  uneasy or fearful about
Approving  tspeak or think favorably of;
Ardent  characterized by intense feeling;
Ardent enthusiastic; passionate
Arrogant  making claims or pretensions to
Arrogant pompous; disdainful; overbearing; condescending; vain; scoffing
Assertive self-confident; strong-willed; authoritative; insistent
Audacious  extremely bold or daring;
Authoritarian  having an air of authority;
awe solemn wonder
Awestruck amazed, filled with wonder/awe; reverential
Baffled  tconfuse, bewilder, or perplex
Bantering  Good-humored, playful
Belligerent  warlike; given twaging war
Belligerent hostile; aggressive; combatant
Bemused  bewildered or confused/ lost in
Benevolent  characterized by or expressing
Benevolent sympathetic; tolerant; generous; caring; well meaning
Bewildered  completely puzzled or confused;
bhorring  tregard with extreme
Biting  nipping; smarting; keen/ cutting;
Bitter  having a harsh, disagreeably acrid
Bitter angry; acrimonious; antagonistic; spiteful; nasty
bitter exhibiting strong animosity as a result of pain or grief
Blithe  joyous, merry, or gay in disposition;
Blunt  abrupt in address or manner/ slow in
Bold  not hesitating or fearful in the face of
Brisk  quick and active; lively/ sharp and
Brusque  abrupt in manner; blunt; rough
bstruse  difficult tunderstand
bsurd  ridiculous; silly
Burlesque  an artistic composition, esp.
Callous cruel disregard; unfeeling; uncaring; indifferent; ruthless
callous unfeeling, insensitive to feelings of others
Calm  without rough motion; still or nearly
Candid  frank; outspoken; open and sincere/
Candid truthful, straightforward; honest; unreserved
Capricious  flighty; led by whims; erratic
Casual  without definite or serious intention;
Caustic  making biting, corrosive comments
caustic intense use of sarcasm; stinging, biting
Caustic making biting, corrosive comments; critical
Cautionary gives warning; raises awareness; reminding
ccusing  tcharge with the fault, offense, or
Celebratory  seeming or tending tbe
Celebratory praising; pay tribute to; glorify; honour
Censorious  severely critical; faultfinding
cerbic  harsh or severe, as of temper or
Ceremonial  of, pertaining to, or
Chatty informal; lively; conversational; familiar
Cheerful  characterized by or expressive of
Cheery  in good spirits
Choleric  extremely irritable or easily
choleric hot tempered, easily angered
Clinical  concerned with or based on actual
Colloquial  characteristic of or appropriate
Colloquial familiar; everyday language; informal; colloquial; casual
Comforting  Tsoothe in time of affliction or
Comic humorous; witty; entertaining; diverting
Commanding  appreciably superior or
Compassionate  having or showing
Compassionate sympathetic; empathetic; warm-hearted; tolerant; kind
Complex  characterized by a very
Complex having many varying characteristics; complicated
Compliant agree or obey rules; acquiescent; flexible; submissive
Complicated  composed of elaborately
Complimentary  of the nature of, conveying,
Conceited  having an excessively favorable
Concerned  interested or affected/ troubled
Concerned worried; anxious; apprehensive
Conciliatory  Tovercome the distrust or
Conciliatory intended tplacate or pacify; appeasing
Condemnatory  Texpress strong
Condescending  showing or implying a
Condescending stooping tthe level of one’s inferiors; patronising
condescension; condescending a feeling of superiority
Confident  having strong belief or full
Confused  tperplex or bewilder/ tmake
Confused unable tthink clearly; bewildered; vague
contemplative studying, thinking, reflecting on an issue
Contemptuous  showing or expressing
Contemptuous showing contempt; scornful; insolent; mocking
contemptuous showing or feeling that something is worthless or lacks respect
Contented  Desiring nmore than what one
Contentious  tending targument or strife;
conventional lacking spontaneity, originality, and individuality
Conversational  The spoken exchange of
Critical  inclined tfind fault or tjudge with
critical finding fault
Critical finding fault; disapproving; scathing; criticizing
Cruel causing pain and suffering; unkind; spiteful; severe
Curious wanting tfind out more; inquisitive; questioning
Curt  rudely brief in speech or abrupt in
Cynical  scornful of the motives or virtues of
cynical questions the basic sincerity and goodness of people
Cynical scornful of motives/virtues of others; mocking; sneering
Defensive defending a position; shielding; guarding; watchful
Defiant obstinate; argumentative; defiant; contentious
Demanding  requiring or claiming more than
Demeaning disrespectful; undignified
Depressed  sad and gloomy; dejected;
Depressing sad, melancholic; discouraging; pessimistic
Derisive  characterized by or expressing
derisive ridiculing, mocking
Derisive snide; sarcastic; mocking; dismissive; scornful
Despairing  Tbe overcome by a sense of
Desperate  reckless or dangerous because of
Detached  impartial or objective;
Detached aloof; objective; unfeeling; distant
Diabolic  having the qualities of a devil;
Didactic  intended for instruction; instructive
didactic author attempts to educate or instruct the reader
Diffident  lacking confidence in one’s own
Dignified serious; respectful; formal; proper
Diplomatic tactful; subtle; sensitive; thoughtful
Direct  proceeding in a straight line or by the
Direct straightforward; honest
Disappointed  depressed or discouraged by
Disappointed discouraged; unhappy because something has gone wrong
Disapproving displeased; critical; condemnatory
Disbelieving  thave nbelief in; refuse or
Disdainful  expressing extreme contempt
disdainful scornful
Disgusted  Texcite nausea or loathing in;
Disheartening discouraging; demoralising; undermining; depressing
Disparaging dismissive; critical; scornful
Dispassionate impartial; indifferent; unsentimental; cold; unsympathetic
Disrespectful  Having or exhibiting a lack of
Distressing heart-breaking; sad; troubling
Disturbed  marked by symptoms of mental
dmiring  tregard with wonder, pleasure,
dmonishing  cautioning, advising, or
Docile compliant; submissive; deferential; accommodating
Dogmatic  asserting opinions in a doctrinaire
Domineering  overbearing; tyrannical
doring  tregard with the utmost esteem,
Doubtful  of uncertain outcome or result
Dramatic  of or pertaining tthe drama/
Dreary  causing sadness or gloom./ dull;
Dubious  wavering or hesitating in
Earnest  serious in intention, purpose, or
earnest intense, a sincere state of mind
Earnest showing deep sincerity or feeling; serious
Ebullient  overflowing with fervor,
Ecstatic  subject tor in a state of
Effusive  unduly demonstrative; lacking
Egotistical  given ttalking about
Egotistical self-absorbed; selfish; conceited; boastful
Elated  very happy or proud; jubilant; in
Elegiac  expressing sorrow or
Elevated  exalted or noble; lofty/ exalted
Eloquent  having or exercising the power
Embarrassed  Tcause tfeel selfconscious
Empathetic  showing empathy or ready
Empathetic understanding; kind; sensitive
Encouraging  tinspire with courage,
Encouraging optimistic; supportive
Enthusiastic  having or showing great
Enthusiastic excited; energetic
Erudite  characterized by great knowledge;
erudite learned, polished, scholarly
Eulogistic  Tpraise highly in speech or
Euphoric  a feeling of happiness,
Evasive  deliberately vague or
Evasive ambiguous; cryptic; unclear
Excited emotionally aroused; stirred
Exhilarated  tenliven; invigorate;
Exhortatory  advising, urging, or
Expectant  marked by eager anticipation
Exuberant  effusively and almost
Facetious  not meant tbe taken seriously
Facetious inappropriate; flippant
Factual  of or pertaining tfacts;
Familiar  commonly or generally known
Fanciful  characterized by or showing
fanciful using the imagination
Farcical  ludicrous; absurd; mocking;
Farcical ludicrous; absurd; mocking; humorous and highly improbable
Fatalistic  the acceptance of all things
Fearful  feeling fear, dread,
Fervent  having or showing great warmth
Flippant  frivolously disrespectful,
Flippant superficial; glib; shallow; thoughtless; frivolous
Forceful  powerful
Forceful powerful; energetic; confident; assertive
Foreboding  a strong inner feeling or
Formal  stiff; using textbook style;
Formal respectful; stilted; factual; following accepted styles/rules
Forthright  going straight tthe point;
forthright directly frank without hesitation
Frank honest; direct; plain; matter-of-fact
Frantic  desperate or wild with
Frightened  Tfill with fear; alarm
Frivolous  characterized by lack of
Frustrated  disappointed; thwarted
Frustrated annoyed; discouraged
Furious  full of fury, violent passion, or
Gentle  kind; considerate; mild; soft
Gentle kind; considerate; mild; soft
Ghoulish  strangely diabolical or cruel;
Ghoulish delighting in the revolting or the loathsome
Giddy  frivolous and lighthearted;
gloomy darkness, sadness, rejection
Grim serious; gloomy; depressing; lacking humour;macabre
Gullible naïve; innocent; ignorant
Hard unfeeling; hard-hearted; unyielding
haughty proud and vain to the point of arrogance
Humble deferential; modest
Humorous amusing; entertaining; playful
Hypercritical unreasonably critical; hair splitting; nitpicking
Impartial unbiased; neutral; objective
Impassioned filled with emotion; ardent
Imploring pleading; begging
Impressionable trusting; child-like
Inane silly; foolish; stupid; nonsensical
Incensed enraged
Incredulous disbelieving; unconvinced; questioning; suspicious
Indignant annoyed; angry; dissatisfied
indignant marked by anger aroused by injustice
Informative instructive; factual; educational
Inspirational encouraging; reassuring
Intense earnest; passionate; concentrated; deeply felt
Intimate familiar; informal; confidential; confessional
intimate very familiar
Ironic the opposite of what is meant
Irreverent lacking respect for things that are generally taken seriously
Jaded bored; having had tomuch of the same thing; lack enthusiasm
jovial happy
Joyful positive; optimistic; cheerful; elated
judgmental authoritative and often having critical opinions
Judgmental critical; finding fault; disparaging
Laudatory praising; recommending
Light-Hearted carefree; relaxed; chatty; humorous
Loving affectionate; showing intense, deep concern
lyrical expressing a poet’s inner feelings; emotional; full of images; song
Macabre gruesome; horrifying; frightening
Malicious desiring tharm others or tsee others suffer; ill-willed; spiteful
malicious purposely hurtful
matter of fact accepting of conditions
Mean-Spirited inconsiderate; unsympathetic
Mocking scornful; ridiculing; making fun of someone
mocking treating with contempt or ridicule
morose gloomy, sullen, surly, despondent
Mourning grieving; lamenting; woeful
Naïve innocent; unsophisticated; immature
Narcissistic self-admiring; selfish; boastful; self-pitying
Nasty unpleasant; unkind; disagreeable; abusive
Negative unhappy, pessimistic
Nostalgic thinking about the past; wishing for something from the past
objective an unbiased view
Objective without prejudice; without discrimination; fair; based on fact
Obsequious overly obedient and/or submissive; fawning; grovelling
obsequious polite and obedient in order to gain something
optimistic hopeful, cheerful
Optimistic hopeful; cheerful
Outraged angered and resentful; furious; extremely angered
Outspoken frank; candid; spoken without reserve
Pathetic expressing pity, sympathy, tenderness
Patronising condescending; scornful; pompous
patronizing air of condescension
Pensive reflective; introspective; philosophical; contemplative
Persuasive convincing; eloquent; influential; plausible
Pessimistic seeing the negative side of things
pessimistic seeing the worst side of things; no hope
Philosophical theoretical; analytical; rational; logical
Playful full of fun and good spirits; humorous; jesting
Pragmatic realistic; sensible
Pretentious affected; artificial; grandiose; rhetorical; flashy
quizzical odd, eccentric, amusing
reflective illustrating innermost thoughts and emotions
Regretful apologetic; remorseful
Resentful aggrieved; offended; displeased; bitter
Resigned accepting; unhappy
Restrained controlled; quiet; unemotional
Reverent showing deep respect and esteem
reverent treating a subject with honor and respect
ribald offensive in speech or gesture
ridiculing slightly contemptuous banter; making fun of
Righteous morally right and just; guiltless; pious; god-fearing
sanguineous optimistic, cheerful
Sarcastic scornful; mocking; ridiculing
sarcastic sneering, caustic
sardonic scornfully and bitterly sarcastic
satiric ridiculing to show weakness in order to make a point, teach
Satirical making fun tshow a weakness; ridiculing; derisive
Scathing critical; stinging; unsparing; harsh
Sceptical disbelieving; unconvinced; doubting
Scornful expressing contempt or derision; scathing; dismissive
Sensationalistic provocative; inaccurate; distasteful
Sentimental thinking about feelings, especially when remembering the past
Sincere honest; truthful; earnest
sincere without deceit or pretense; genuine
solemn deeply earnest, tending toward sad reflection
Solemn not funny; in earnest; serious
Subjective prejudiced; biased
Submissive compliant; passive; accommodating; obedient
Sulking bad-tempered; grumpy; resentful; sullen
Sympathetic compassionate; understanding of how someone feels
Thoughtful reflective; serious; absorbed
Tolerant open-minded; charitable; patient; sympathetic; lenient
Tragic disastrous; calamitous
Unassuming modest; self-effacing; restrained
Uneasy worried; uncomfortable; edgy; nervous
Urgent insistent; saying something must be done soon
Vindictive vengeful; spiteful; bitter; unforgiving
Virtuous lawful; righteous; moral; upstanding
whimsical odd, strange, fantastic; fun
Whimsical quaint; playful; mischievous; offbeat
Witty clever; quick-witted; entertaining
Wonder awe-struck; admiring; fascinating
World-Weary bored; cynical; tired
Worried anxious; stressed; fearful
Wretched miserable; despairing; sorrowful; distressed

The mechanics of tone
Tone is conveyed through diction (choice and use of words and phrases), viewpoint, syntax (grammar; how you put words and phrases together), and level of formality. It is the way you express yourself in speech or writing.

How do you find the correct tone?
You can usually find a tone by asking these three questions:

1. Why am I writing this?
2. Who is my intended audience?
3. What do I want the reader to learn, understand, or think about?

Informal writing, your tone should be clear, concise, confident, and courteous. The writing level should be sophisticated, but not pretentious.

In creative writing, your tone is more subjective, but you should always aim to
communicate clearly.

Genre sometimes determines the tone.


4 thoughts on “Tone Words

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