Voice and Tone
By voice, we mean how we say what we need to say. When we write documentation, we have certain things that we need to communicate to our reader. But there are an infinite number of ways that we could express our message.
As people, we all develop ways of talking to others which say a lot about who we are and how we see the world. In our documentation, we want to provide important information as clearly as possible. We would also like people to carry away a favorable impression of who we are and what we stand for as a company.
Real, Helpful and Human
When we write documentation, we are, at that moment, the public face of the company. If that sounds like a lot of responsibility, do not worry. We all have it in us to be friendly and helpful – and that is all that is required. We just need to remember to write like a real human being who cares about the reading audience.
As we have already said, voice is about conveying helpfulness and professionalism by how we approach explaining things. But while we are explaining, we also need to adopt an appropriate tone.
Tone is more about finding the correct balance between being stiff and formal, and being overly relaxed and flippant. We can take great care to explain issues thoroughly and thoughtfully. But if we use language that is so formal that it sounds unfriendly, or so informal that it sounds unreliable, we risk wasting all the effort that we put into our explanations.
The tone that we are aiming for is friendly. We want to sound professional, but not overly formal.
It is acceptable to use a little humor from time to time. Do not overdo it, however, as it can distract from the message that we are trying to communicate. Additionally, sense of humor is particularly dependent on a person’s cultural background. What is funny to us may not be so amusing to someone from a different culture; it may even be offensive.