about voice & tone

What's the Difference?

A brand voice is the brand’s personality; the unique way a brand presents itself to the world. Ultimately, the voice must run consistently through all communications, no matter who is writing on behalf of a brand, across all channels—that voice must never change. In this case, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is the parent brand. Your agency is a sub-brand, and therefore, by adhering to The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s voice, and writing in the appropriate tone for your audience(s), it will ensure a seamless experience for all pa.gov site visitors.

Brand tone of voice is how you will communicate with your specific audience. That includes your choice of words, communication style, and emotional tone based on the matter or task at hand needing to be communicated. Since pa.gov speaks to many different audiences, it’ll be important for you to write to your audience(s) in the appropriate tone of voice.

What’s the difference between voice and tone? Think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might address a co-worker or a friend differently than you would address a customer or your boss.

Your tone also changes depending on the emotional state of the person you’re addressing. You wouldn’t want to use the same tone of voice with someone who’s scared or upset as you would with someone who’s laughing.

Audience First

You have an opportunity to meet your audience where they are, connect with them, and provide a helpful experience that builds trust and loyalty. 

Audience first

Be helpful 

Your job is to answer the questions you know your readers will have, without them even having to ask them. Tell them what you want them to do, like "Apply now," for example. 

Be personal 

Always remember that you are writing to human beings. Pretend that you are writing to people on an individual, or 1:1 basis. And, avoid government jargon and inside all acronyms at all costs. 

Be direct

Trim the fat. Don't beat around the bush, don't wander or trail off into long thoughts and sentences. Keep it focused, direct, on task, and on point.