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Tone of Voice Copywriting > Tone of Voice Guidelines

Tone of Voice guidelines

What are brand tone of voice guidelines?


A brand is like a person: it has a personality and talks in a certain way. Customers pick up on this tone of voice intuitively. Tone of voice guidelines define this personality and explain how to create it when you write. They usually start by describing the brand and what makes it different. Tone of voice principles and tips set out how to write for the brand. 'Before and after' examples illustrate across different media. Then there's usually a checklist.

How tone of voice can build your brand


  • Differentiation – in a mature market, competing products can appear similar to consumers. Writing in a distinctive tone of voice reveals the essential character of the brand helping it stand out.

  • Emotional connection - investing a brand with character gives consumers a feeling of what it would be like to meet or work with the brand. That emotional connection is intuitive and can be more powerful than the brand's rational benefits. A distinctive tone of voice works for you all the time, as you can apply it across most of your communications. Think of the playful lines on Tesco van sides, like 'Freshly clicked'. Every time someone sees one of their vans Tesco's is made warmer and more fun brand, adding appeal.

  • More effective writing– simple rules, illustrated with examples, help writers in your business improve their writing. Tone of voice guidelines should be on everyone's desktop because good writing improves everyone's effectiveness. Just take one good writing principle - being economical with words. Imagine the time savings if every email, memo and document only used as many words as were needed to explain an idea. 

  • Consistency and error reduction - tone of voice guidelines encourage consistency as they offer simple writing techniques anyone can follow. Mistakes in customer-facing copy tarnish a brand. Dull, long-winded writing can obscure messages, reducing sales. Falsely chirpy writing can make consumers feel your brand is inauthentic. Tone of voice guidelines help writers avoid such blunders.

Things to aim for in tone of voice guidelines

  • Difference – when creating a tone of voice, it’s easy to sound like other brands. Most tone of voice guidelines encourage you to write in a 'human', informal way. Few truly differentiate the writing so it is recognisably distinctive. Identifying what is at the core of your brand and finding a way of conveying that through language is crucial.

  • Simplicity and practicality – if the guidelines provide too much detail, they can become impractical as most people don’t have the time to read them. What’s required is enough background and rationale to evoke the brand and explain the tone of voice principles. Then there should be simple-to-grasp guidance on how to achieve the tone of voice - plus checklists for quick reference.

  • Motivation - you are asking busy people to change the writing habits of a lifetime. So you'd better make your tone of voice guidelines enjoyable! They have to fire up everyone who writes for your company. Make them inspiring.

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How we can​ help with tone of voice guidelines

  • Brand consultancy experience – we work with many of London’s leading brand consultancies, so we understand what the brand strategists are aiming to achieve, and we know how language can contribute to brand perception.

  • Create a distinctive tone of voice - to differentiate a brand through language you need to combine brand consultancy insight with knowledge of the English language and how it works, plus experience of copywriting across different media for a range of audiences.

  • Brand writing experience in many sectors - having written extensively for major brands over the last 20 years we are well placed to provide practical advice on how to write for a brand.

  • Easy to implement - our tone of voice guidelines are always simple to follow and offer practical advice. As a result, anyone can achieve the effects for the brand. You don’t need to be a professional writer.

  • Flexing the tone of voice – we provide guidance on the writing requirements of different media and how to flex a tone of voice for medium, message and audience.

Get in touch

"Barnaby Benson worked as an integral part of the team responsible for developing the new tone of voice for Lloyds TSB and implementing that across all key brochures. Having worked with Barnaby Benson on a series of projects over the years I have been consistently impressed with the speed at which he gets beneath the surface of the project, understands the client and their brand."

Carrie Stokes

CF Stokes Consultants

Download your free tone of voice PDF
How to write tone of voice guidelines that differentiate your brand
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