Today I was a substitute in a 9th grade AP Humanities class with lesson plans that asked me to present a PowerPoint, titled "Marigolds Style Analysis Structured Paragraph," that asked students to answer the following prompt:

Describe the voice of the narrator of Marigolds or Tuesday’s Siesta. Then, explain how the diction and imagery create this voice (Note: these are short stories by Eugene Eugenia Collier and Gabriel García Marquez respectively).

In the teacher's slides, it has a section defining tone in written composition as "an attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience. Tone is generally conveyed through the choice of words or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject."

In preparing to present these slides to the class, I realized that I was confused about the relationship between "style analysis," "tone," and "voice." All terms that came up in the PowerPoint (and mentioned above). Researching on the internet I found a University of Maryland webpage stating that style is "mechanical or technical aspects of writing," voice is the "the unique worldview and word choices of the author," and tone is "the attitude conveyed in the writing and may encompass formality, objectivity, intimacy, and similar aspects." But this still confuses me. Didn't the teachers slides state that tone was an author's diction (i.e. word choice)? So why is the University of Maryland including "word choices" in its definition of voice and not tone?

In an article on Quick and Dirty Tips, the author briefly mentions at the bottom that tone can be seen as a subset of voice. Perhaps a relationship diagram could clear my confusion. Can anyone clearly define and explain the relationships between these three concepts?

P.S. I'm having trouble adding "voice" and "Style-Analysis" to this post.

  • You might like to visit Writing - this kind of question might be more appropriate there. Jan 6, 2016 at 11:12
  • Yes, I think you're right.
    – Voltron
    Jan 6, 2016 at 12:07

1 Answer 1


Here I venture beyond my area of expertise, but I think I can probly cope at the 9th grade level.

  • Style Analysis is a general term, referring to the kind of analytic study being done.
    What this is all talking about is "Style", but that's a hard word to pin down. Hence the Analysis.

  • Voice, in this context (but not in a grammatical context -- this is literature, not linguistics),
    refers to the voice one "hears" in the mind's ear when one reads. Many if not most fluent silent readers use their vocal production facilities to interpret what they read -- which is, after all, a representation of spoken language.
    However, this effect varies from reader to reader, since everyone learns to read in their own particular way, using whatever mental resources they please. When the effect exists, as it clearly does with some readers, it can convey all the pragmatic and affectual information that actual spoken language can. But it's a really hard thing to study, as you may imagine.

  • Tone is another word that has a literary usage and a linguistic usage (sound frequency);
    the literary usage shows up in expressions like I don't like your tone of voice, young man.
    That means 'I don't like (what I inferred from what you just said about) your attitude.'
    The ability to recognize tones that are ironic, sarcastic, angry, placating, bored, distracted, etc.
    is something everybody can do, and does do, constantly. In linguistics, this is pragmatics.
    But in literature, where you can't actually hear the voice, writers have a lot of tricks they
    can use to create the impression of "voice" in the reader. These tricks are what the lesson plan wants the students to think through and begin to talk about. It's not easy for 9th graders to be this objective; it requires them to recognize their reactions and link them to what caused them. Not simple. But worthwhile learning.

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