Tone, in literature, is an attitude of an author toward a subject or an audience. Tone is conveyed through the choice of words, or the point of view of an author on a specific subject. In literature, the tone of a literary work is the effect that the writer creates on the readers through choice of writing style. The overall objective is to express an attitude or certain feelings about the subject matter.

The tone in a story can be joyful, humorous, serious, threatening, sad, formal, informal, optimistic and pessimistic. Your tone in writing will be reflective of your mood as you are writing.Tone in writing is not really any different than the tone of your voice. 

What is Tone?
Tone refers to a writer’s use of words and writing style to convey his or her attitude towards a subject. The tone is often defined as what the author feels about the subject. What the reader feels is known as the mood. You know that sometimes it is not “what” you say, but “how” you say it.

The tone  is conveyed through diction i.e choice and use of words and phrases, the point of view, syntax (grammar) and level of formality. It is the way you express yourself in speech or writing.

Example 1
Mother: “We are going on a vacation.”
Daughter: “That’s great!!!”
– The tone of the daughter’s response is very happy and joyful.

Example 2
Father: “We can’t go on vacation this summer.”
Son: “Yeah, great! That’s what I expected.”
– The son’s tone is sarcastic or ironic.

Example 3
“Can someone tell me what the hell is going on here?”
– This has a violent and aggressive tone.

How do you find the correct tone?
You can usually find the right tone by asking three questions:
  1. Why am I writing this?
  2. Who is my envisioned audience?
  3. What do I want the reader to learn, understand, or think about?

In formal writing, the tone should be clear, confident, concise, and courteous. The writing level should be sophisticated. 
In creative writing, the tone should be more subjective, but should always aim to communicate clearly. 

Examples of tone in a story include just about any adjective you can imagine:
  • Anxious
  • Depressing 
  • Excited
  • Foolish
  • Scared
  • Smart
  • Worried
Tone = Attitude. Voice = Personality.
Tone and mood both deal with emotions centred on a piece of writing. Every written piece comprises a central theme or focus. The manner in which a writer approaches this theme is the tone. The tone can be formal, informal, sarcastic, serious, comic, sad, or cheerful, or it may be any other existing attitude. 
Tone decides how the readers read a literary piece, and how they should feel while they are reading it. It stimulates the readers to read a piece of literature as a serious, comical, remarkable, or painful manner. In addition, tone lends shape and life to a piece of literature because it creates a mood. Moreover, tone presents voice to characters and throws light on the personalities and personalities of characters that readers understand better.

         Positive Tone Words          Neutral Tone           Negative Tone Words         
 admiring          commanding            ambiguous
 affectionate  direct  ambivalent
 appreciative  impartial  angry
 benevolent  indirect  annoyed
 calm  meditative  antagonistic
 casual  objective  anxious
 celebratory  questioning  apathetic
 cheerful   speculative   apprehensive
 comforting  unambiguous          belligerent
 compassionate  unconcerned  bewildered
 complimentary  understated  bitter
 confident    blunt
 contented    bossy
 delightful    cold
 earnest    conceited
 ecstatic    condescending
 empathetic     confused
 encouraging  contemptuous
 euphoric  curt
 excited  cynical
 friendly  demanding
 funny  depressed
 gleeful  derogatory
 happy  desolate
 hilarious    despairing
 hopeful    desperate
 humorous  detached
 interested  disappointed
 jovial  disliking
 modest  disrespectful
 nostalgic  doubtful
 optimistic  embarrassed
 passionate  enraged
 playful  fearful
 proud  forceful
 reassuring  frantic
 relaxed  frightened
 respectful  frustrated
 romantic  furious
 sentimental  gloomy
 serene  hopeless
 silly  greedy

Short Examples of Tone

1. The old man took the handful of dust from his farm and sniffed it with great pleasure.
2. The scorching heat of the desert sun burned his skin black, and he could see death hovering over his head.
3. Though the starry sky was beautiful, his mood was so melancholic that he took no interest in it.
4. The old man’s face looked so peaceful after death that he seemed in deep sleep.
5. The kind touch of her mother’s hand comforted her in her pain.
6. The spectacle of the sunset was so astounding that people stood watching breathlessly.
7. He was on his way to home when he saw a boy of ten, who moved his heart as he stood weeping.
8. The singing of birds was deemed a messenger for approaching spring.
9. The muffled church bell sounded as though it came from an unfavourably deep well.
10. He went into the restaurant and ordered a hot coffee, the cosy atmosphere inside reminded him of the past.