Finding a tone of voice

Use the right tone of voice so everyone who interacts with your content has a consistent NSW Government experience. 

Introducing tone of voice

Tone is not what you say, but how you say it. Using the appropriate tone while writing helps to:

  • communicate respectfully and clearly
  • influence and persuade your audience
  • build trust with your communities
  • reinforce your department’s brand.

Creating a brand persona

A brand persona helps everyone who communicates on behalf of your department to adopt a similar style. Through it, you establish consistency across all of our communication channels.

If your department were a person, what kind of person would we be?

This persona has four personality traits:

Authoritative

We take an evidence-based approach, using facts to back up our decisions.

Transparent

We are reliable and informative, using open, honest language.

Inclusive

We are unbiased and apolitical, drawing our audience into the conversation by using active voice and the first and second person (‘we’ and ‘you’).

Encouraging

We are warm and inviting, using supportive, inspiring language without jargon.

Three tones of voice

Use these personality traits in three different tones depending on who you’re talking to and in what medium. Just as you might use a different tone when speaking to your boss, your co-workers or your partner.

  • Use the everyday tone for most online content and publications.
  • Use the community tone for social media, blogs and newsletters.
  • Use the official tone for policies, procedures and ministerial briefings.

Everyday tone

  • Keep language simple. Be vivid but not too detailed.
  • Use informative and inclusive language.
  • Establish an emotional connection with the audience by being supportive and knowledgeable.
  • Use a mix of short, sharp sentences and slightly longer sentences to give your writing rhythm and flow. Aim for an average of 20 words per sentence. 
  • Use a combination of first person plural (‘we’ and ‘our’) and second person singular (‘you’).
  • Use active voice.
  • Use contractions (‘you're’ instead of ‘you are’).
  • Avoid acronyms, buzzwords and clichés.
  • Use humour sparingly, through wit rather than cheesy jokes.
  • Always apply correct grammar and punctuation.

Community tone

  • Keep language simple and vivid.
  • Use friendly, encouraging and supportive language.
  • Establish an emotional connection to inspire engagement from the audience.
  • Use short, sharp sentences as well as one-liners to create an impact while being as brief as possible.
  • Use a combination of first person plural (‘we’ and ‘our’) and second person singular (‘you’).
  • Use active voice.
  • Use contractions (‘that’s’, ‘where’d’, ‘you’re’, ‘can’t’).
  • Use colloquial expressions when appropriate (will not offend), but avoid buzzwords and clichés.
  • Use humour through word play, reworking idioms and exploring paradoxes.
  • Apply correct grammar and punctuation for the most part. Use shortened versions of words on the appropriate channel (for example, Twitter).

Official tone

  • Provide the essential details using simple, straightforward language.
  • Use authoritative, realistic language without being condescending or pompous.
  • Take an evidence-based approach – concentrate on conveying factual information rather than seeking to connect with the audience on an emotional level.
  • Focus on one idea or concept per sentence and keep it as brief as possible without compromising meaning.
  • Use a combination of first person plural (‘we’ and ‘our’) and second person singular (‘you’) when your audience is clear and you need to convey a call to action. Use third person (‘the department’, ‘students’, ‘staff’, ‘teachers’) in policies. 
  • Use passive voice sparingly, and only when it provides greater clarity to the sentence.
  • Avoid using contractions (‘won’t’).
  • Don’t use colloquial expressions, acronyms, buzzwords or clichés.
  • Don’t use humour as it will undermine the message.
  • Always apply correct grammar and punctuation.

 

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