May 29, 2024


I Fall For Art

Business Brochure Writing: What is “Tone” and Why It’s Important

The “tone” of a written piece – like your brochure – can best be defined as the “feel” or “emotional effect” this piece has.

Many things make up “tone.” The words you use in your brochure. The length of your sentences. The colors you use. The font. The punctuation. The type of graphics or photos. The graphic design.The type of paper you use.

To give your brochure its proper “tone,” all of these elements need to come together, giving it one particular feel.

“That’s nice,” I bet your saying right now. “Wake me up when you’re done with your artsy lecture.”

Whoa, pardner! Back up the Mac–or park your PC–right now & listen up.

This is not some fancy-schmancy, high-falutin’, artsy-fartsy, fuzzy-wuzzy concept. It’s real. And it has real (read: “bottomline”) consequences.

I’ll start by describing an actual brochure I saw, one that I’ve used as a very bad example, during the brochure workshops I’ve given in the Detroit area.

This brochure was on a very sensitive and heart wrenching topic: domestic violence. It was done by a metropolitan agency to either a.) make the public aware that domestic violence hurts children and is, by extension, child abuse b.) warn the perpetrators of the crime that it is, well, a crime. (For starters, this brochure was so poorly written, it was hard to decipher who it was aimed at. In fact, it stumped my workshop participants.)

Now, writing this brochure unsure of the target market wasn’t the least of its problems. Here is where we get to tone.

It was a harsh 1-color (yes, 1-color—-black type on white paper.It looked like something dashed off and photocopied.) brochure with large type & sentences that seemed to scream at you. The header read: “There is NO Excuse, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE It’s A Crime!” The word “you” was used, but in a harsh, high-handed tone: “What you should know about . . .” followed this screaming headline.

It got your attention, alright. But its tone was so shrill and harsh, it didn’t invite me in, to learn, to get help. It only pushed me away.

So you see, “tone” is very important.

Now, I’ll explain another example – also from a government agency and dealing with children – that does a much, much better job.

This brochure was 1-color also. Only it was done by a graphic artist who knew how to use many shades of grey, screens, and other techniques to make what was originally black into a soft, warm, inviting picture.
In the center of the brochure were black and white photos of 4 smiling children, each of a different race.

Above the kids was the header: “The Health Insurance You Need”

In the center of the kids was a circle with the words “MIChild,” the acronym for low-cost children’s insurance, playing on the zip code abbreviation for the state of Michigan. Instantly known to its target market.

Then, at the bottom of the brochure–still on the cover–were the words “At a Price You Can Afford,” followed by the toll-free number.

The whole tone of this brochure is “We want to help you. We respect you. We understand you.” (And that’s just from reviewing the cover!”)

See the difference? Even though both brochures were from government agencies, even though both brochures were only 1 color, the difference between them is vast. As, I’m sure, were the results.

In these brief paragraphs, I’ve given you just a tiny glimpse of what tone is and why it’s important. There are many more examples in kinds of “tone;” how each “tone” is accomplished with the words chosen, the sentence length and structure, the type of paper, etc.I hope, however, that in these brief paragraphs you can begin to understand tone and its importance. And, most important, you can understand how you can apply it to your own brochure.

(c)CSC Group, LLC