Find your voice (and your tone). Here at We ❤ Health Literacy … | for CommunicateHealth | health literacy


High: A doctor doodle is talking to a patient with a dog paw. The doctor’s scribble frowns and says, “After all, you won’t need a dog leg ectomy.” The patient’s scribble says, “Why do you find it so sad?” The doctor’s scribble says, “Wow. Wrong tone.” In the next frame, the doctor smiles and says, “After all, you won’t need a dog leg ectomy!”

Here a We ❤ Health Literacy Headquarters, we are always looking for ways to establish stronger connections with our audience. And using the right voice and tone is one way to forge that connection! So this week, we’re sharing tips to help you identify a clear voice and tone in your health writing.

First, a little update on the meaning of voice and tone. Voice it is constant. It’s a key part of your identity – an expression of personality that comes out through your writing. In the corporate world, it’s often called a “brand voice,” but it’s not just for Apple and Ford. Whether you’re working for a Fortune 500 company, a government agency, or a nonprofit community, you need a consistent voice.

But what is see, exactly? Think about how you can recognize your favorite singer even if you’ve never heard the song before; this is because their voice is different from the different songs (or, in our case, health materials!).

To, on the other hand, is situational. It varies depending on the specific topic, context, and likely emotional state of your audience. Thus, even though the voice remains the same on a website or campaign, the tone may change slightly from one page to another or from one tweet to another.

Clear as mud? Think of it this way: no matter who you talk to, you’re still yourself, this is yours voice. But you wouldn’t talk to your best friend in the same way you would talk to your boss, or your sworn enemy, or your bank teller; to depending on who you’re talking to and what the conversation is about.

So how do you figure out the right voice and tone? We often define voice and tone as a series of adjectives, such as “kind, compassionate, and sincere.” And to really get the hang of it, it can be helpful to think about what your voice or tone is i which is not.

For example, you can describe the voice of your health communication campaign as:

  • Optimistic, but not naive
  • Friendly, but not too familiar
  • Informative, but not dry

As for the tone, we need to be more specific. What is the health issue at stake? What is the audience likely to think or feel as they read?

For example, a fun, quirky tone might be perfect for sharing general tips on healthy eating, but it wouldn’t fit well into nutrition tips for people starting chemotherapy. In this case, the tone could be:

  • Motivating, but not too optimistic
  • Comforting, but not paternalistic
  • Serious, but not serious

Bottom line: To create a stronger connection with your audience, think about the voice and tone of your health materials before you write.

Tweet about it: Do you want your #HealthLit writing to sound right? Being intentional with your voice and tone can help. @CommunicateHlth has tips: #HealthComm

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