Tone is the overall mood of the story. In understanding the TONE of the story, we understand the author’s intent. It helps us to understand the central idea, too.


Questions to help you identify tone in story:

  • What is the mood of the story? You might start with a major division such as "happy" or "sad" (comic/tragic is a classical division), optimistic or pessimistic.
  • Pick a specific adjective from the list below to describe tone.
  • Which elements contribute to the overall tone of the story? For example, the characters might be exaggerated and thus comic. The setting might be dark and dreary and thus melancholoy.

Tone must imply tragic/pessimistic or comic/optimistic . You can say that there is an overall tone with undertones, shadings or overtones of another tone.

Here are some commonly used terms for TONE:



Tone, of course, may be described in as many ways as there are human moods. Here is a partial list of words that might describe tone in particular passages:

admiring, worshiping, approving

strident, subdued, harsh

disliking, abhorring

simple, straightforward, direct, unambiguous

complicated, complex, difficult

forceful, powerful

ironic, sardonic, sarcastic

indirect, understated, evasive

bitter, grim

sympathetic, interested

indifferent, unconcerned, apathetic

antagonistic, hostile

violent, outraged, indignant, angry

elevated, grand, lofty

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