What Is the Writer's Attitude Called in Persuasive Writing?

Tone conveys the writer's attitude in persuasive writing.
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Attitudes and emotions often play an important role in persuasive writing. Writers may work on the emotions of their audience as a means to convince them to take an action. Writers express their feelings or attitudes about the topic with their tone. When reading essays and editorials, recognizing the tone can help you understand the author’s message. When writing persuasively, your tone can help you sway your audience.

1 Subjective Tone

When writers reveal their attitudes and opinions about the topic, they take a subjective tone. Writers often adopt an informal style when writing subjectively. You can often recognize a subjective piece by the writer’s use of personal pronouns like “I” and “we” and by language that prompts a strong emotional reaction. Subjective pieces may have a positive or negative tone. The writer may also mask his real feelings with sarcasm. Persuasive essays, newspaper columns and political speeches may use a subjective tone.

2 Identifying Subjective Tones

Writers can convey a variety of feelings and attitudes through their tone. If the overall tone is negative, the writer might show anger, bitterness, sadness, remorse and even sarcasm. If the tone is positive, the writer might be optimistic, compassionate, cheerful or humorous. To find the tone in a piece -- or to create a tone in your writing -- you need to think about word choice. For example, if the writer takes a stance against a proposition, he might call it ridiculous, horrifying or disastrous, depending on the level of emotion he feels. If the writer wants to show support, he might use terms like justified, beneficial or valuable. Of course, you should always ask yourself if you should take the tone literally or interpret it for satire.

3 Objective Tone

In some types of persuasion, writers may maintain an objective tone, one that avoids emotional language. Any piece of writing that demands a formal style usually requires an objective tone. In these pieces, the writer states a thesis in the introduction and relies on logically organized evidence for support. In most cases, writers who take an objective tone avoid using personal pronouns. The objective tone gives the piece a feeling that the writer has made an impartial judgment. Formal arguments often require an objective tone.

4 Establishing a Tone

To determine the tone you should use for a persuasive piece, you should consider your topic, purpose and audience. If you are writing about a serious topic, like gun violence in school, an irreverent tone might seem disrespectful to victims and their families. That piece may call for more restraint in the language you employ. If you are working on a literary analysis essay where you have to support a thesis, your teacher or professor would most likely prefer an objective tone. If you’re writing a persuasive letter to your employer requesting extra vacation days, a respectful tone will accomplish more than a mocking tone. You should think about your relationship with the audience and how the topic might affect them when adopting a tone.

David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.