What words does the author choose? Consider his/her word choice compared to another. Why did the author choose that particular word? What are the connotations of that word choice?
Images - vivid appeals to understanding through the senses - concrete language
What images does the author use? What does he/she focus on in a sensory (sight, touch, taste, smell, etc.) way? The kinds of images the author puts in or leaves out reflect his/her style? Are they vibrant? Prominent? Plain? NOTE: Images differ from detail in the degree to which they appeal to the senses.
What details are does the author choose to include? What do they imply? What does the author choose to exclude? What are the connotations of their choice of details? PLEASE NOTE: Details are facts or fact-lets. They differ from images in that they don't have a strong sensory appeal.
What is the overall impression of the language the author uses? Does it reflect education? A particular profession? Intelligence? Is it plain? Ornate? Simple? Clear? Figurative? Poetic? Make sure you don't skip this step.
What are the sentences like? Are they simple with one or two clauses? Do they have multiple phrases? Are they choppy? Flowing? Sinuous like a snake? Is there antithesis, chiasmus, parallel construction? What emotional impression do they leave? If we are talking about poetry, what is the meter? Is there a rhyme scheme?
Laugh: guffaw, chuckle, titter, giggle, cackle, snicker, roar
Self-confident: proud, conceited, egotistical, stuck-up, haughty, smug, condescending
House: home, hut, shack, mansion, cabin, home, residence
Old: mature, experienced, antique, relic, senior, ancient
Fat: obese, plump, corpulent, portly, porky, burly, husky, full-figured
The use of vivid descriptions or figures of speech that appeal to sensory experiences helps to create the author's tone.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun. (restrained)
An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king. (somber, candid)
He clasps the crag with crooked hands. (dramatic)
Love sets you going like a fat gold watch. (fanciful)
Smiling, the boy fell dead. (shocking)
Details are most commonly the facts given by the author or speaker as support for the attitude or tone.
The speaker's perspective shapes what details are given and which are not.
Like word choice, the language of a passage has control over tone.
Consider language to be the entire body of words used in a text, not simply isolated bits of diction.
For example, an invitation to a wedding might use formal language, while a biology text would use scientific and clinical language.
When I told Dad that I had goofed the exam, he blew his top. (slang)
I had him on the ropes in the fourth and if one of my short rights had connected, he'd have gone down for the count. (jargon)
A close examination and correlation of the most reliable current economic indexes justifies the conclusion that the next year will witness a continuation of the present, upward market trend. (turgid, pedantic)
How a sentence is constructed affects what the audience understands.
Parallel syntax (similarly styled phrases and sentences) creates interconnected emotions, feelings and ideas.
Short sentences are punchy and intense. Long sentences are distancing, reflective and more abstract.
Loose sentences point at the end. Periodic sentences point at the beginning, followed by modifiers and phrases.
The inverted order of an interrogative sentence cues the reader to a question and creates tension between speaker and listener.
Short sentences are often emphatic, passionate or flippant, whereas longer sentences suggest greater thought.
Sentence structure affects tone.
SHIFT IN TONE:
Good authors are rarely monotone. A speaker's attitude can shift on a topic, or an author might have one attitude toward the audience and another toward the subject. The following are some clues to watch for shifts in tone:
key words (but, yet, nevertheless, however, although)
punctuation (dashes, periods, colons)
changes in sentence length
sharp contrasts in diction
Tone is defined as the writer's or speaker's attitude toward the subject and the audience. Understanding tone in prose and poetry can be challenging because the reader doesn't have voice inflection to obscure or to carry meaning. Thus, an appreciation of word choice, details, imagery, and language all contribute to the understanding of tone. To misinterpret tone is to misinterpret meaning.
A list of tone words is one practical method of providing a basic "tone vocabulary." An enriched vocabulary enables students to use more specific and subtle descriptions of an attitude they discover in a text. Here is a short list of simple but helpful "tone words":
Students need to use dictionaries for definitions of the tone words listed above. Students need explicit dictionary meanings to establish subtle differences between tone words such as emotional , sentimental , and lugubrious , so that they can accurately comment on a work that appeals to the emotions, emphasizes emotion over reason, or becomes emotional to the point of being laughable. Keeping a list of precise tone words, and adding to it, sharpens students' articulation in stating tone.