Mood and Tone In Literature

Writers express certain attitudes or feelings on a matter, and they do so by using tones in their literary work. Their primary goal here is to communicate a given perspective or opinion on the matter. In other words, the writing style used in a piece of literature speaks more about the tone of the writer uses and thus that is what invokes the reader’s attitude or feeling. By deducing this feeling, a mood is created on the reader.

Tone vs. Mood

Written tone is sometimes difficult to recognize and readers ought to be careful not to infer a wrong attitude. Readers must differentiate between tone and mood because they are not the same even though they are all elements of literary work. They must scrutinize the context of the writer’s work to identify certain words that infer the tone used. And then differentiate it from the mood of the writer. Readers recognize and understand a writer’s style of writing by examining the tone and mood of their literary work.


A tone is an attitude or the feeling expressed by a writer to the readers. A person can identify the tone of a piece of literature through the writer’s choice of words or the language. The words explain the tone and convey the writer’s mood – he or she could be irritated, angry, sarcastic, jovial or critical. The language used reveals a lot on whether they have a positive or negative perspective on a certain matter. A tone is expressed through diction, a point of view and syntax. A writer can use various devices such as choice of language, words and setting to create a mood.

Let’s have a look at some sentences that infer tone.

I’d rather walk to school and be late than sit here and wait for the bus

This sentence shows that the person is determined.

It’s a bright Monday morning; I am ready to start on my new job!

This sentence shows that the person is excited.


A mood is the feeling inferred by the reader after reading a writer’s work. It can also be explained as the emotion or frame of mind perceived when reading. Often, a writer creates a certain mood at the beginning of their work and carries that mood onwards. Mood helps the reader develop a sense of expectations on what might follow. You should note that mood is not a description of the way a person feels but rather what feeling comes to the reader mind after reading a piece of literature or by observing an image. A mood is created through devices such as dialogue, setting, and plot of the story.

We can take a look at some sentences that infer mood.

Billy, the old school guard, kicked the dog out of the room.

The sentence may show anger or fury.

She was having fun and singing out loud; her voice could be heard from afar.

The sentence shows happiness and joy.


Tone words


Use of tone words enables the writer to be more specific and provide a clear description of the tone discovered in the literary work. The tone employed in a literary work can either convey a positive tone or a negative one. Below are examples of tone words

Positive tones

Loving- Confident

Hopeful- Optimistic

Reflective- Excited

Amused- Concerned

Negative tones

Arrogant- Outraged

Bitter- Aggravated

Confused- Hostile


Mood words


Mood is the overall emotions evoked by a writer’s work and is described by words such as adjectives. Just like tone, a mood can also be either positive or negative. Below are examples of words that express mood.

Cheerful- Saddened

Gloomy- Bleak

Discouraging- Provoked

Inspired- Relieved

Annoyed- Encouraged

People should though be aware that a writer’s tone may not necessarily express their attitude on the matter. A tone can either express a writer’s attitude or might as well be a fiction he or she created. A writer can employ a certain tone to express a perspective or opinion, different from theirs to create a desired mood for the reader. It happens with many writers and readers ought to be careful not to confuse fiction with a real attitude. It’s a common mistake to confuse between the tone and mood in a piece of literature. Just remember that a tone is the feeling evoked by the writer to his or her readers and can be known by their choice of words. A mood is the environment or atmosphere the writer’s work creates on the reader.

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