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Questions & Answers

What is the difference between the tone and mood of a text?

This is an interesting question to ask and a useful point to consider. It’s particularly important for the students, particularly those about to appear for board exams (be it British or American board) to be able to differentiate the two, so actively read through the below given differentiation.

Tone and mood of the text are quite closely related in terms of their origination; however, they are not the same. 

Tone is the writer’s attitude toward a particular subject that is being discussed in the literature. Since, it is not directly communicated (like ‘this is what the writer feels about so and so subject’), one of its main features is to be indirect. So, the tone is implicitly conveyed through the ‘elements of tone’ present in the passage, for instance:

Connotations of Vocabulary

Figures of Speech



Literary Devices (etc.!)

More than one of such ‘elements’ could be incorporated into the writing to convey a certain tone through. However, in order to realize it, the reader would have to be extremely sensitive to the details that would convey subterranean messages from the author. 

For instance, the tone in the following passage from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White is sad but also peaceful, comforting, accepting and optimistic at the same time. It could be judged by the words used with positive connotation, punctuation at the ‘right’ breaks for emphasis and sentences with medium length that stick with the person more easily:

‘’But I feel peaceful. Your success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree, my success. Your future is assured. You will live, secure and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. These autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will come, and the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will be yours to enjoy, Wilbur-this lovely world, these precious days…"

Further, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart conveys a nervous, frustrated and guilty tone through quite a few elements of tone, namely repetition, anxious vocabulary, capitalization and punctuation:

It was A LOW, DULL, QUICK SOUND -- MUCH SUCH A SOUND AS A WATCH MAKES WHEN ENVELOPED IN COTTON. I gasped for breath, and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly, more vehemently but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why WOULD they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men, but the noise steadily increased. O God! What COULD I do? I foamed -- I raved -- I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder -- louder -- louder!

There is no exhaustive list of types of tones as there can be many types; in fact, there’s a lot of room for getting creative through the amalgamation of several tones within the passage. Some different types of tones can be:






Ironic/Sarcastic/Satirical (etc.)

The mood is, on the other hand, something that’s felt by the reader while going through the text. It can either be the same throughout the text or different at varying parts. For example, one might feel angry/sad/worried at the conflict part but relaxed/proud/delighted at the resolution of the conflict.

Some examples of mood could be the following:








Pessimistic (etc.)

So, the tone is the writer’s attitude but the mood is the reader’s feeling while going through the text. That’s the difference.

But they both can overlap in several ways. Like the elements to convey both could be similar and the tone itself could be used at times to convey mood!

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