Aggressive vs Friendly Tone

In your study of English language so far, you might have come across the word 'tone' as you've moved through different texts and topics. It's probably a word you've heard in conversation outside of an educational setting, or even used yourself too! 

Aggressive vs Friendly Tone Aggressive vs Friendly Tone

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    If you're into music or play an instrument, you're probably aware of the term 'tone' as well, meaning the quality or pitch (the frequency) of a sound. In English language, tone means something a bit different, but there is indeed some overlap.

    Aggressive and Friendly Pitch and Tone Study SmarterWe often think of 'tone' when we think about music.

    Tone is the use of pitch (how high or low your voice or a sound is) in language to create lexical or grammatical meaning. This means that tone refers to when people use pitch to change the meaning of the grammatical structures and word choices they use when they speak. In writing, where language has no literal pitch or volume, tone refers to the writer's attitude towards a subject or how their perspective influences the mood of the text.

    There are many different tones that can be created when we write or speak, but the ones we're concerned with in this article are 'aggressive' and 'friendly'.

    Aggressive Tone

    Aggression is probably not an unfamiliar concept to you and is most likely a word you've heard or used at some point in your life. You might even have heard about or witnessed acts of aggression before, but to cover all our bases, let's delve a bit deeper into what 'aggressive' is before we apply it to tone.

    Aggressive definition

    'Aggressive' is an adjective, which means it's a word that describes a noun.

    'Aggressive' means ready or likely to attack or confront, and is often used to refer to forceful and potentially harmful or violent behaviour.

    An aggressive tone therefore, would be one where the speaker is trying to come across as forceful or intimidating, or implies that they might cause harm to the listener.

    An aggressive tone is not always indicative of physical aggression. Aggression can also come across verbally, such as if a speaker insults someone or threatens them.

    In writing, an aggressive tone can signal that a conflict is going to arise in the story, and can also be used to generally ramp up the tension and pace of a story's development.

    Aggressive and Friendly Aggressive Tone Study SmarterAggression is an emotion that comes out in many different way when we speak in an aggressive tone.

    Aggressive synonym

    There are many synonyms you could use in place of the word 'aggressive'. Here is a small selection:

    • hostile: to create a sense of opposition or dislike.

    • antagonistic: feeling or acting in a way that conveys distaste, dislike, and lack of care towards someone.

    • forceful: strong and assertive, powerful.

    • combative: ready or eager to fight or argue.

    As you can see, these words might have their own, slightly different meanings but they can be used in the same ways and contexts as 'aggressive'.

    Ways to create an aggressive tone

    An aggressive tone can be created by using a range of strategies. In writing, authors can create a sense of aggression by describing their characters' voices, behaviour, movements, and language using evocative (creating strong feelings) adjectives and powerful imagery. This could include:

    • using metaphors and similes to liken characters to animals and other entities: 'All hints of humour drained from his face and he became as imposing as a bear.'

    • using onomatopoeia: 'There was a bang! as his fist met the tabletop.'

    • using other aspects of the scene to mirror the characters' emotions: 'A black cloud darkened the picnic.'

    In spoken exchanges, an aggressive tone can be created by altering the pitch and volume of your speech. For instance:

    • shouting or raising your voice can create a sense of aggression.
    • lowering the pitch of your voice (speaking in a deeper voice) can make you sound more threatening and imposing which creates an aggressive tone.

    The language we use also impacts whether our tone is aggressive or not. Insulting someone or using mean language will come across as aggressive.

    Aggressive Tone Examples

    When exploring any linguistic topic, it's helpful to have some examples to look at to help solidify our understanding. Here are some examples of aggression:

    Aggressive Behavior

    It's usually quite easy to identify aggressive behaviour. These are some typically aggressive acts:

    • pushing or shoving someone

    • shouting at someone

    • invading someone's personal space in a threatening or intimidating manner

    • behaving in any way that might make another person feel scared or nervous

    Aggression is not always a bad thing (hear me out) and can be a positive attribute if it is not aimed at others. For instance, being "aggressive" can simply mean being very determined or driven.

    For example:

    • aggressively working to make sure house renovations are completed before a spell of bad weather.
    • being aggressive in your approach to work to ensure you're achieving excellent and consistent results.

    Aggressive tone in writing examples

    Whether it's a novel or a piece of written communication, the aggressive tone is easily conveyed through text. Here are some examples of the aggressive tone in text:

    Dave swivelled round in his chair and stood up. He took one step forwards and raised his right hand, index finger outstretched in a pointing motion.

    'It's my way or the highway! You either get on board with the plan, or I'll make sure you never work in this city again. Got it?' He spat when he spoke and shoved Max's shoulders as he said this.

    In this example, the aggressive tone is created not only by how the character's movement is described (the character pointing at the person he's talking to and shoving him) but also by the words he uses and how he says them (the exclamation mark in the first sentence suggests shouting or talking loudly). The threat evident in the second sentence ('..I'll make sure you never work in this city again') also adds another layer to the sense of aggression.

    Now here's an example of how an aggressive tone might be created in written communication rather than in fictional writing. This exchange takes the form of a conversation via text message:

    Person A: 'This is all your fault.'

    Person B: 'I'm sorry, it was an accident.'

    Person A: 'I don't care what you say! You never do anything right, I dunno why I even bother!'

    In this example, Person A is coming across as very aggressive towards Person B as they are using blaming language ('your fault'), and showing their distaste and lack of care for Person B ('I don't care what you say').

    This conversation could also have happened verbally over the phone or if the two people were standing close to one another.

    Finally, an example of that positive aggression we mentioned in the earlier deep dive:

    'Our sales numbers are slipping everyone. We need to adopt a more aggressive approach like Martin - his sales are through the roof despite the slump we're in!'

    In this example, the speaker is attempting to motivate a team by pointing out a colleague's aggressive work ethic. This does not mean that Martin is going around threatening people if they don't buy his products, but rather that he is very driven and will go above and beyond to ensure he keeps making sales.

    Friendly Tone

    Moving on from the aggressive tone, we now have the friendly tone! This one is pretty self-explanatory and is a tone that you should be very familiar with from talking to friends and family (or even acquaintances and strangers!), as well as reading novels and other texts.

    As we did with aggressive, let's look at the definition of friendly.

    Friendly definition

    Friendly is also an adjective, which means it is also a word that describes a noun.

    Friendly refers to any interaction that is kind and pleasant, and which makes no suggestion of harm. If you break the word down into its constituent parts (the parts from which it is formed), you get -friend and -ly. 'Friend' obviously refers to someone who cares about and loves you, and the suffix -ly means having the characteristics of the noun it is added to. In this case, 'friendly' means having the characteristics of a friend.

    A friendly tone is one where the speaker (or character, if we're looking at a piece of text) shows that they like or care about the listener or audience.

    A friendly tone is one where there is no sense of danger or threat, and this generally creates an atmosphere of happiness and safety.

    Aggressive and Friendly Friendly Tone Study SmarterBeing collaborative and working with others is an example of friendly behaviour.

    Friendly synonym

    Similarly to 'aggressive', there are also quite a few synonyms for 'friendly'. Here are a few to give you an idea:

    • amiable: having or displaying a friendly or pleasant manner.
    • benevolent: well-meaning and good-natured, looking to help others.
    • genial: friendly or cheerful.
    • gregarious: having a fondness for company, sociable.

    This is only scratching the surface; there are loads more words you can use instead of 'friendly'!

    Ways to create a friendly tone

    As you'll most likely have used and heard a friendly tone before, you might already have an idea of how a friendly tone can be created. For extra clarity, we'll go over some strategies that can be used to create a friendly atmosphere.

    In writing, a friendly tone can be created in many of the same ways that a writer would create an aggressive tone:

    • using metaphors and similes to liken characters to other entities: 'She floated through the room like a butterfly, and people were drawn to her.'

    • using other aspects of the scene to mirror or emphasise a character's emotions or impact: 'The sun seemed to burn brighter when she smiled at me, and her warmth washed over the room.'

    A friendly tone can also be set by describing interactions between characters, the language they use, and the emotions that they feel as a result.

    In spoken interactions, a friendly tone can be created by using language that is caring, happy, and collaborative, as well through altering our volume and pitch:

    • lowering our volume can signal friendliness as it shows we are not trying to be assertive or intimidating, and speaking more loudly can also show friendliness in the context of excitement or delight.
    • speaking at a higher pitch can demonstrate we are happy for someone else which is a sure way to create a friendly tone.

    Friendly Tone Examples

    As we did with the aggressive tone, it's now time to look at some friendly examples:

    Friendly personality

    How do we know someone is being friendly? We can usually tell if someone has a friendly personality by looking at their behaviour. You can tell someone is being friendly if they:

    • smile a lot when they speak.

    • ask questions that show they care about the other person in a social interaction.

    • reach out to or approach people in a kind way.

    • offer help and try to make people feel good about themselves.

    Friendly Tone In Writing Examples

    In novels and other written texts, a friendly tone is easy to create. We are also able to demonstrate our friendliness to others through the way we interact with them in face-to-face interactions.

    Michael could see that Jenny was not her usual, bubbly self as they walked and this made his heart sink. He brightened when an idea struck him. He ran ahead slightly and dipped into the bushes, emerging with a makeshift posy of wildflowers - Jenny's favourites. He skipped back over to her and placed the posy in her hand.

    In this example, the character of Michael notices that his friend is feeling down and tries something to make her feel happier. His effort shows he cares for her, as does the fact that he was worried about her in the first place and noticed her sadness. Overall, this creates a tone of friendliness in this passage.

    It was Olivia's first day of college and she didn't know a single soul. As she walked slowly towards the door, she felt a tap on her shoulder.

    'Excuse me, do you know where the chemistry lab is?', a girl with messy hair smiled apologetically at her as she continued, "sorry, you're probably in a rush!"

    In this example, the girl that approaches Olivia doesn't know her, but still engages with her. This shows that the girl has a friendly disposition (personality or demeanour). She is displaying outgoing and friendly behaviour. She also apologises to her which shows that she cares about Olivia's feelings. The nature of this exchange creates a general friendly tone.

    A friendly tone can also be created when there is no speech or social interaction involved. For instance, let's say you are organising a surprise party for a friend:

    You understand the things your friend likes and dislikes, and you've made sure that the decorations at the party relate to their interests. You've laid a table with their favourite foods and drinks, and you've taken the time to bake them a birthday cake. You start playing your friend's favourite song over the speakers, ready for when they get there.

    In this example, you haven't spoken to your friend or directly interacted with them, however, the way you have used your knowledge about them to plan a party they'll like shows your care towards them and creates a friendly tone.

    Friendly tone in writing

    In the above section, we looked at some brief examples of a friendly tone in written and verbal situations, but it's also important to note that a friendly tone in writing can be useful for lots of everyday applications. For example:

    • communicating with teachers and colleagues is much easier and more productive when a friendly tone is used in emails and other forms of written communication.
    • you're more likely to attain your desired result by using a friendly tone in written communication.
    • using a friendly tone in writing can also make you appear more approachable and helpful which can make others feel more comfortable talking to you and sharing with you.

    In terms of using a friendly tone in creative writing, the examples in the above section probably gave you a decent idea of how this can be achieved. That said, these are some of the effects that a friendly tone in creative writing can help to create:

    • creating a friendly tone in creative texts can help to bring your characters to life and make them feel more three-dimensional. Kindness is a very appealing trait that is likely to make your characters seem more attractive to readers.
    • a friendly tone can make a passage or text more pleasant and compelling to read as well, which could inspire readers to engage more with the story.

    Can you think of any times you were friendly to someone? Perhaps someone you didn't know very well?

    Aggressive and Friendly - Key Takeaways

    • 'Tone' refers to the atmosphere created in a piece of writing or in a face-to-face interaction, and it refers to how people can use pitch to change the meaning of words and grammatical structures.
    • There are many different tones that can be created in written and verbal interactions, and aggressive and friendly tones are two examples of this.
    • Different tones can be created using different kinds of language as well as other literary strategies such as metaphorical language and strong imagery.
    • The aggressive tone is created when someone is angry, forceful, or asserting themselves over someone else, but can also relate to when someone is feeling driven or motivated.
    • The friendly tone is created when someone shows that they care about someone else and acts in a kind and thoughtful way.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Aggressive vs Friendly Tone

    What is a friendly tone?

    A friendly tone is one that is created when a person tries to be kind, approachable, and outgoing. A friendly tone makes people feel comfortable interacting with someone and is a good tone for building and strengthening relationships. 

    What is an aggressive tone in writing?

    An aggressive tone in writing is one that conveys a sense of threat or violence. An aggressive tone in writing can be created by building suspense in the text, and by portraying characters and situations as having the potential to create conflict. Emotions such as anger, frustration, and irritation can also be used to create an aggressive tone in writing. 

    What does a friendly tone sound like?

    A friendly tone can be identified if it sounds like a person is enjoying or enthusiastic about an interaction. A person who is being friendly will often talk in quite a high pitch rather than a low one (which would sound more serious), and will use lots of positive adjectives such as 'great', 'lovely' etc. A friendly tone can also come across as being helpful or caring about someone or something. 

    Can a tone of voice be disrespectful?

    A tone of voice can definitely be disrespectful. A disrespectful tone could be signalled by someone openly doubting or denying something that has been said, or by making mean or snide comments about someone or something. A tone can also be taken as disrespectful if a person overtly speaks in a way that is disrespectful, such as insulting someone or generally being nasty.

    What tone of voice is best for effective communication?

    The best tone of voice for effective communication will depend on the situation. If you're talking to a colleague or teacher, then a friendly but professional tone would be the most effective. However, when talking with close friends or family, there's likely no need to be professional so a friendly and respectful tone is the best for effective communication. If communication is going to be effective, it generally has to be open and honest so transparency is also important in your tone.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which of these descriptions relates to 'tone'?

    Which of these qualities relates to tone in terms of sound?

    Shouting or raising your voice is an example of:

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