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Neutral Tone

The table below provides a definition of neutral tone and an overview of when to use it and when to avoid it.

Definition

When to USE

When to AVOID

By neutral tone, we mean your responses are generally unexpressive and tempered.

Use neutral tone to temper a reader's response to news that might generate an unnecessary emotional reaction. For example, imagine you have a good bank that is being told for the first time it has failed to do something. You probably want to temper your response by using a neutral tone. If it is not a grave situation that would necessitate negative tone, then use neutral tone.

Neutral tone is also used to deliver nonemotional information. 

Avoid neutral tone when you need to communicate something in a particularly positive or negative manner.

Examples

Given below are two examples of statements in which neutral tone is used. As you read them, consider what your reaction would be if you were the recipient. How would this make you feel? What kind of reaction might this generate? If you would like to hear how these sound to a reader, click the audio button below each sentence. (Turn on your speakers or headphones.)

Example 1

It appears the bank's timelines for the branch project were not met this quarter.


Example 2

Pursuant to SR 87-12, enclosed is the application for XYZ bank.

TOOLBOX

As you can read (and hear), each of these responses are rather bland. What is important to note is that the situation calls for neutral tone. In the first example, the examiner is pointing out that something was not accomplished—timelines were not met—but this is clearly not tragic, so he didn’t need to use negative tone. Negative tone might generate an overreaction from the readers. Because we do not want them to think this issue is more problematic than it is, we temper their response by using neutral tone.

In the second example, the examiner simply tells us that information is provided—this is not emotional information. Because of the context of these situations, the intent is for the reader to have nearly no reaction to this. As the reader, do you think these sentences accomplish that?

In the second example, the examiner simply tells us that information is provided—this is not emotional information. Because of the context of these situations, the intent is for the reader to have nearly no reaction to this. As the reader, do you think these sentences accomplish that?

New situations present themselves at nearly every examination, so we cannot outline every situation in which neutral tone is appropriate; however, if you would like to see typical situations in which examiners have found neutral tone to be appropriate on past examinations, take a look at the Writer’s Toolbox to the right. Click Examples of When to Use Neutral Tone. 

Before moving on, take note: Use a neutral tone to deliver nonemotional information or information that might unnecessarily upset a reader. You neutralize information with your tone to help buffer a reader's reaction.

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