Along with achieving the right level of readability in your web text, you need to strike the appropriate tone. Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject. It might be angry or weary or irreverent or any of a thousand other emotions and physical states.
Visitors to your author site who find your tone unbefitting almost certainly will leave. Though the desired tone varies among your website readers, we can anticipate what the average person expects.
Culturally, people have come to associate certain tones with specific genres. If your website’s tone is flirty and suggestive and you write westerns, you’ve likely misjudged your reading audience. Of course, each genre can possess a range of tones, but even then each one often is related to a subgenre.
A good strategy is for your website’s tone to match that used in your books. Readers often expect that. The website, after all, is like a book blurb. If the tone of either is humorous while the tone of your books are dead serious, the reader usually will feel jilted.
If you’ve written multiple books in which each has a different attitude, then your website will need to use more of a default tone that works for any genre. To achieve that, follow these four basic guidelines…
Write as if you are speaking directly to the reader by using words like you and your. In addition, use active voice to sound less bureaucratic and formal (passive voice also unnecessarily lengthens your sentence, reducing readability). Suppose you write a travel guide to national parks; your website text might say something like, “You’re visiting a national park but don’t have a lot of time. Maybe you’re just passing by or have only one day of your vacation to stop. What should you see, and how will you find those spots?”
Always be energetic rather than dull and positive rather than negative. This helps generate interest and then excitement in the reader. Writing “The books’ trails are short enough that you can spend just a couple of hours on them so you can enjoy a leisurely day with plenty of time to do other stuff!” is a lot better than saying “Each trail takes about two hours to do. You’ll probably want to do a couple a day to keep the fat off.”
If writing nonfiction, you want to show how visitors can benefit by reading your books. If writing fiction, you want to show that your books are suspenseful. Let your content or your writing style reflect this. To that end, a travel book website might include words such as “The series ensures you make the most of your limited time by focusing on the must-see wonders at our most visited national parks.”
You don’t want to write long prosaic paragraphs, but you do want to sprinkle in descriptive phrasing and apt similes that connects the reader to your books’ subject matter. For example, in a travel guide to Wisconsin, you could write, “Bayfield County boasts crystal blue waters, lush green forests, and friendly Mayberry-like villages.”
Usually issues with tone can be resolved by fixing a couple of sentences. Be forewarned, though, that sometimes you may need to take a whole new approach to the web page and start from scratch. As you outline each of your main points that you want to make in the text, focus on delivering them in a personable, upbeat way that demonstrates your book’s usefulness.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.