Word choice and tone

Word choice

When considering the language used by a writer, you can think of another word or expression the writer could have used. This will then allow you to compare the word used against an alternative and consider what the advantage was of using the word selected for the text.

Think about the connotations of the word – in other words, what do you associate it with?

For example, ‘slender’, ‘slim’, ‘thin’, ‘lean’ and ‘skinny’ may all have similar meanings but their connotations can be either negative or positive. If asked to comment on the writer's use of one of these words, thinking about the connotations will help you come up with a suitable comment.

Another approach is to consider if the words used are informal or formal. A popular technique is to use a mixture of the two.

You should also think about the effect produced by the sound of words, through the use of techniques such as alliteration and onomatopoeia.


Tone refers to the attitude that a writer conveys towards a subject. A writer may be passionately for or against a particular topic and express this through various means.

It could be that emotional language is used - this is known as an emotive tone. Humour can be applied either affectionately or mockingly.

Other kinds of tone you may encounter in a piece of writing include light-hearted, ironic, sarcastic, angry, gloomy, anxious, joyful or sorrowful.