The UVic Writer's Guide


In Practical Criticism, I. A. Richards defines tone as the speaker's "attitude to his [or her] listener"--which in turn affects the listener's attitude to the literary work.

Tone varies to express the full range of human feeling and thought. For instance, the tone may be formal, serious, or passionate (sorrowful, loving, angry); or it might be intimate, light-hearted, or calmly meditative; or can even be witty or ironic. The term is usually used to refer to the tone of language in narrative or drama, or the tone of a narrative or lyric persona. (See also voice and point of view.)

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 23, 1995