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Tone

Once you have established the purpose of your essay, consider the manner of expression you want to adopt. How do you want your essay to sound? What kind of feeling do you want to convey? In other words, you must determine the TONE of your essay.


In an application essay the tone of your writing will reflect your personality. It will provide the reader with an impression of your attitude about your audience, about your subject, and even yourself. Do you want the reader to feel that you are assertive, satirical, intellectual, formal, whimsical, cheerful, dogmatic, sly, etc?


Note how the following lines from various essays convey different tones. (Not all are taken from successful essays!)

  • “Can you imagine what existence in junior high school is like for a one-hundred sixty-five pound female who stands 6’4” and has flaming red hair?”
  • “It is pressingly imperative that our nation nurture effectively the intellectual development of its gifted high school students.”
  • “The prospect of going to college frightens me. But maybe it will be okay once I really begin.”
  • “My thirteen straight losses on our high school wrestling team told me that I better look elsewhere for positive strokes.”
  • “My trip through high school blew me away.”