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Although there are more professional communicators than ever before, too much business communication is filled with jargon and Orwellian newspeak. Former IoIC chairman Paul Brasington argues that organisations need to think much harder about tone of voice – and has produced a 34-page guide to help.

As humans we change our tone of voice all the time. Most of us instinctively know when to be sympathetic, forceful, humorous or whatever depending on who we’re talking to and the situation we’re in.

Too many businesses don’t do that. Even if tone of voice is mentioned in any brand toolkit, Paul (pictured) says the guidelines are “typically useless”

“If businesses don’t learn to communicate in a human voice, they won’t be engaging,” he explains. “Good guidelines will include stuff like avoiding the passive voice, thinking in your customer’s head rather than your own. But people do it surprisingly rarely…

“I’ve tried to address the problem by thinking about tone of voice, which means thinking about meaning as well as style and it’s that bit that gets left out of tone of voice guidelines.

“Those guidelines should focus as much on what you say about the organisation as how you say it. If you can frame a good core narrative for your organisation, frame it so it’s memorable and real, this will do far more for the way you’re perceived than any tricks or tropes of your language.

“Indeed, the fact that people could tell a corporate story in their own words would be a benchmark for success.

Paul has identified five tones of voice, which he describes as building blocks.

“They could all be used in the same organisation at different times for different things, and there will be further tones that are overlaps between these – they represent a spectrum,” he explains.

IoIC members can find out more about the five tones of voice in November's InsideOut or by downloading Paul's 34-page report for FREE from the 'Research' section of this website by clicking here
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