The Ultimate List of 175 Tone Words for Writers

You already know, as a writer, that your choice of words conveys more than the literal meaning. But what are tone words, and what do they add to your writing

Tone words in literature draw you into someone else’s head by sharing some of the author’s perspective on what they’re describing. Tone words in an essay or blog post do the same.  

We’re not as objective as we like to think, after all. Our choice of words gives us away.

But they can also make your work more interesting and relatable to your reader.

What are tone words?

An author’s tone words convey their attitude toward something. It can also communicate a particular character’s attitude. Good tone words can be positive, negative, or neutral. 

Tone is often confused with mood, which is the way the reader feels as a result of the tone. 

The best way to demonstrate this is by giving examples of tone words in a list that categorizes them by tone. 

List of 175 Tone Words for Writers 

Positive Tone Words

Adoring — To regard with esteem, love, and respect.

Amused — Finding something funny or entertaining.

Ardent — Passionate; Fervent; On fire

woman taking down notes while facing laptop and holding cup tone words for writers

Assertive — Standing up for oneself; outspoken; strong-willed

Awestruck — Filled with or revealing awe.

Bold — Courageous; daring; acting without fear; not hesitating

Benevolent — Kind; Generous; Expressing good will 

Calm — Serene; Tranquil; Peaceful 

Celebratory — Paying tribute to; Feeling or expressing happiness or pride.

Chatty — Talkative; Cheerful; Sociable; Lively; Conversational

Cheery — Cheerful; in good spirits; positive 

Comic or Comical — Humorous or funny

Compassionate — Merciful; Having or showing compassion; Kind

Curious — Eager to know or learn something; Inquisitive

Dignified — Having or showing a composed or serious manner worthy of respect

Diplomatic — Tactful; Using words strategically; Sensitive; Thoughtful

Direct — Honest; Straightforward; Getting right to the point

Docile — Teachable; Compliant; Accommodating

Earnest — Sincere; Serious in intention; Zealous

Ebullient — High-spirited; Overflowing with excitement or enthusiasm

Ecstatic — Rapturous; In a state of ecstasy or happy delirium

Empathetic — Having or showing empathy; Feeling what others are feeling

Enthusiastic — Excited; Ebullient; Filled with happy energy about something

Frank — Honest; Straightforward; Plainspoken; Matter-of-fact

Gentle — Kind; Considerate; Tender

Humble — Modest; Understanding one’s own value; Deferential

Humorous — Funny; Entertaining; Amusing

Impassioned — Filled with emotion; Passionate.

Informative — Giving Information; Educational

Inspirational — Encouraging; Motivating.

Intimate — Private; Familiar; Confidential; Having a close relationship

Joyful — Filled with joy; Happy; Filled with gratitude

Laudatory — Praising; Extolling; Recommending

Light-hearted — Carefree; Laid-back; Fun-loving; Positive

Loving — Full of love and affection; Showing deep concern

Objective — Relying on facts; Without prejudice; Fair; Impartial

highlighting words on paper tone words for writers

Optimistic — Hopeful; Cheerful; Positive

Persuasive — Successful in persuading others or making a strong case; Convincing

Philosophical — Thoughtful; Pensive; Seeking wisdom; Analytical; Rational

Playful — Light-hearted; Fun; Full of good spirits; Jesting

Reassuring — Intended to remove doubts or fears.

Reverent — Having deep respect for something or someone; Deferential

Righteous — Morally right and just; Pious; Guiltless

Sincere — Honest; Genuine; Authentic; Earnest

Sonorous — Full or loud in sound; Resounding; Thunderous

Sympathetic — Understanding how another is feeling; Having fellow feeling

Thoughtful — Reflective; Pensive; Serious

Tolerant — Open-minded; Compassionate; Flexible: Forgiving; Patient

Unassuming — Modest; Genuine; Humble

Virtuous — Consistently showing virtue in word or action; Upstanding

Whimsical — Playful; Mischievous; Fanciful

Witty — Quick-witted; Clever; Amusing

Wise — Discerning; Prudent; Having balanced judgment

Wonder — Awe; Fascination; Surprise mixed with admiration

Negative Tone Words

Accusatory — Accusing; pointing the finger at someone

Aggressive — Pushy; Imposing one’s will on others; Hostile

Apathetic — Showing little or no interest or concern; Indifferent

Belligerent — Combative; Argumentative; Hostile

Bewildered — Confused; perplexed; puzzled

Biting — Sarcastic or cutting; insulting; hurtful

Bitter — Antagonistic; resentful; hostile

Brusque — Harsh or abrupt in manner; rough

Caustic — Harshly critical; Biting; Corrosive

Callous — Unfeeling; Uncaring; Cruel; Indifferent

Cautionary — Raising awareness or warning; Instructive

Churlish — Harsh or critical in a mean-spirited way

Conceited — Proud; arrogant; filled with hubris

Conciliatory —  Appeasing; Intended to pacify or placate

Condescending — Arrogant; Talking down to someone; Patronizing

Confused — Bewildered; Confounded; Befuddled

Contemptuous — Showing contempt or loathing; Mocking; Scornful

Contentious — Quarrelsome; Argumentative; Disagreeing

Cruel — Merciless; Mean-spirited; Causing pain or suffering

Curt — Rude or abrupt in speech; Terse

Cynical — Assuming harmful motives; Mocking virtue; Sneering

Defensive — Defending one’s position; Oversensitive; Protective

Defiant — Disobedient; Contentious; Obstinate

Demeaning — Undignified; Attacking someone’s dignity or self-respect

Derisive — Insulting; Snide; Dismissive; Scornful

Desperate — Having an urgent need; Dire circumstances

Detached — Disinterested; Unbiased; Aloof

Diabolic — Fiendish; Evil; Outrageously wicked; Devilish

Disappointed — Unhappy because expectations were not met

Disbelieving — Rejecting or lacking belief in something; skeptical

man writing on paper tone words for writers

Disdainful — Expressing contempt or a strong dislike 

Disgusted — Feeling nauseated or appalled by something or someone

Disrespectful — Showing a lack of respect or deference

Distressing — Alarming; Troubling; Heartbreaking

Disturbed — Showing symptoms of mental illness

Doubtful — Having or expressing doubts; Uncertain; Questioning

Dramatic — Expressing oneself with an excess of drama or extreme emotion

Dreary —  Causing sadness or draining of energy; Gloomy

Effusive — Overly demonstrative; Unreserved; Over the top

Egotistical — Acting or speaking to serve the ego; Egocentric; Self-centered

Embarrassed — Feeling self-conscious or ill at ease

Enraged — Infuriated; Furiously angry; In a rage

Evasive — Avoiding; Ambiguous; Unclear; Cryptic

Facetious — Flippant or inappropriate

Flippant — Shallow; Thoughtless; Glib; Superficial

Frustrated — Discouraged or annoyed 

Ghoulish — Delighting in the loathsome or revolting

Grim — Serious; Depressing; Lacking humor; Gloomy or macabre

Gullible — Easy to deceive; Too quick to believe or trust; Naive

Hard — Unfeeling or uncaring; Hard-hearted

Hypercritical — Nitpicking; Unreasonably critical; Judgmental

Imploring — Begging or pleading 

Impressionable — Naive; Credulous; Trusting; Childlike

Inane — Silly or foolish; Nonsensical; Stupid

Incensed — Angry; Furious; Enraged

Incredulous — Disbelieving; Suspicious; Unconvinced 

Indignant — Angry; Annoyed; Offended

Inevitable — Unwanted but unavoidable; Just a matter of time

Irreverent — Lacking reverence for things generally held in reverence or sacred

Jaded — Bored; Cynical; Lacking enthusiasm

Judgmental — Quick to judge or find fault with others; Disparaging

Macabre — Frightening; Gruesome; Dark

Malicious — Wanting to harm others or see them suffer; Spiteful; Malevolent

Mean-spirited — Bearing and/or acting with ill will; Uncharitable

Mocking — Insulting; Belittling; Scornful; Ridiculing

Naive — Innocent; Immature; Unsophisticated; Unworldly

Narcissistic  — Self-centered or egocentric; Self-pitying; Self-admiring

Nasty — Unpleasant; Mean-spirited; Unkind; Abusive

Negative — Pessimistic; Unhappy; Focusing on the negative

Obsequious — Overly submissive; Fawning; Grovelling

Outraged — Angered; Resentful; Furious

Pathetic — Arousing pity; Vulnerable

Patronizing — Portraying a feeling of superiority; Condescending

Pessimistic — Tending to see the worst in things

Pretentious — Showing off; Affected; Flashy

Resentful — Feeling or expressing bitterness

Sarcastic — Cutting; Insulting; Snide 

woman writing on notebook while facing laptop tone words for writers

Satirical — Mocking; Poking fun to show a weakness; Ridiculing 

Sensationalistic — Inaccurate; Distasteful; Provocative

Scathing — Severely critical; Harsh; Injurious 

Submissive — Obedient; Compliant; Passive

Sulking — Grumpy; Resentful; Sullen

Uneasy — Causing or feeling anxiety; Uncomfortable

Vindictive — Petty; Seeking to punish; Spiteful; Unforgiving

World-weary — Cynical; Bored or tired of life

Worried — Anxious; Troubled

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Sad Tone Words

Abashed — Embarrassed or ashamed

Aggrieved — Distressed; Wronged or Injured

Depressing — Causing sadness or apathy; Melancholic

Disheartening — Discouraging; Saddening; Demoralizing

Hopeless — Desperate; Discouraging; Despairing

Mourning — Grieving; Processing emotional pain

Morose — Sullen and ill-tempered

Regretful — Feeling or showing regret

Resigned — Showing acceptance to something unpleasant

Somber — Grave; Serious; Dark or dull in color or tone

Tragic — Causing extreme sorrow

Wretched — Miserable; Despairing; Sorrowful

Neutral Tone Words

Absurd — Silly; ridiculous

Blunt — Abrupt in manner; lacking in subtlety

Candid — Frank; Outspoken; Honest.

Colloquial — Informal; Casual; Using familiar, everyday language

Commanding — Imposing; Impressive; Having a strong presence

Complex — Not simple; Having many varied characteristics

Compliant — Acquiescent; Flexible; Pliable; Submissive

Concerned — Caring; Worried; Anxious; Apprehensive

Dispassionate — Impartial; Unsentimental; Indifferent

Forceful — Powerful; Spoken with force and energy.

Formal — Factual; Respectful; Following acceptable customs and rules.

Impassioned — Ardent; Filled with Emotion; Passionate

Informative — Educational; Factual; Instructive

Intense — Passionate; Concentrated; Deeply felt; Over the top

Ironic — Saying the opposite of what is meant

Nostalgic — Thinking fondly about or wishing for something from the past

Objective — Without discrimination; Based on facts.

Pragmatic — Realistic; Sensible.

Restrained — Controlled; Unemotional; Disciplined 

Sentimental — Emotional; Thinking about feelings; Fondly remembering

Skeptical — Unbelieving; Questioning; Doubting

Solemn — Serious; Without humor.

Urgent — Requiring immediate attention; Pressing

Use this list of tone words to improve your writing

Now that you’ve looked through the tone words list, you probably recognized some of your favorites — as well as some you rarely use. 

When you look through your current work in progress, what tone words do you notice, and what do they say about your attitude or that of your characters? 

Are there any you use too frequently? And are your chosen words as clear or as powerful as they need to be? 

If you’re not sure, check out our post on the best thesauruses for writers. And you can always skim through this post for ideas or to get some clarity on your word choice. 

Tone words draw you into someone else’s head as you share some of the author’s perspective. Read this post and see the ultimate list of tone words for writers.