Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series about tone of voice. The first post was about what tone of voice is and why it matters and the second was about how to start defining your tone of voice by looking at your company’s brand values. In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at Design Station, a fictitious company that’s in the process of developing its tone of voice.

Design Station is a web application developer based in Seattle. The company was founded seven years ago by twin brothers Steve and Simon Smith, both of whom loved electronics and computers from an early age. Four years ago, the Smiths started adding more staff, and the company now has a team of five people. It mainly serves small or medium-sized firms that are looking for reliable, easy-to-use ecommerce sites.

The Smiths recently created a three-value framework for Design Station, with explanations of what each of its brand values — rigorous, idealistic, and curious — does and doesn’t mean:

Values: Rigorous Idealistic Curious
It means… We work hard to build reliable code and test it thoroughly before it goes live. We really care about writing well-crafted code and finding the simplest, most elegant solution to every problem. We’re always on the lookout for what comes next, so we can be a part of it.
It doesn’t mean… We’re rigid or uptight. We don’t get the job done. We’re dreamers.

By developing these values, the Smiths built a shared understanding of what they meant. As a result, they were able see more clearly how their brand values could translate into their writing style. And later on, when they were putting their tone of voice into practice, it was much easier to work out whether or not the things they’d written were in line with their tone.

From Values to Tone

For more experienced writers, values like the ones the Smiths have created might be enough of a guide all on their own. However, if you want everyone in your organization to understand how to articulate them, you’ll need to build a bridge between your values and your tone. That means thinking about how each value translates into a writing style.

Let’s return to the Design Station example and look at how their three values could become tone of voice “do’s and don’ts.” This brand has three versions of its tone, in line with its values: a rigorous one for talking about practicalities, an idealistic one for linking to other people’s ideas, and a curious one for talking about the future.

Values: Rigorous Idealistic Curious
Do… Keep your writing clear and concise when specifying projects or explaining ideas.Stick to shorter words and sentences.

Always give concrete details when you can. Don’t generalize.

Use jargon as shorthand when you’re sure the reader will understand it.

Say why you’re doing what you’re doing, using more flowing language.You can use longer words and sentences here.

Use proven principles and thought leadership to justify your suggestions.

Use questions to talk about the future, product innovations, and anything else forward-looking.Express excitement about what’s coming.
Don’t… Make the language so clipped that you sound like a robot. Drift off into abstraction — always link the ideas to what you’re actually doing. Speculate wildly or look too far into the future.Let your excitement become starry-eyed.

In the same way as you made your brand values specific, make your tone specific. Don’t waste time writing generic or obvious guidance, or saying the same thing over and over. Remember, you’re looking for points of differentiation.

In our next post, we’ll look at how to translate your tone of voice into your writing.

Want to learn more? Check out Acrolinx’s new eBook “Watch Your Tone: Why You Company’s Tone of Voice Matters and How to Get it Right.”