Hypocritical vs Cooperative Tone

There are many different kinds of tone that we can use in conversation and writing, but the two we're going to be looking at in this article are the hypocritical tone and the cooperative tone

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Hypocritical vs Cooperative Tone


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There are many different kinds of tone that we can use in conversation and writing, but the two we're going to be looking at in this article are the hypocritical tone and the cooperative tone.

Hypocritical and Cooperative Different Kinds of Tone StudySmarterThere are many different tones used in both spoken and written language.

Before we delve into these two different tones, what they mean, and how they are created, let's first have a brief recap of what tone is in general:

Tone in English Language

In English Language:

Tone refers to the use of pitch, volume, and tempo of voice to give different lexical and grammatical meanings. In other words, our tone will impact what our word and grammatical choices mean. In writing, tone refers to the writer's perspective and attitude towards different subjects, and how they communicate this in the text.

Some common types of tone you might encounter include:

  • humorous tone

  • serious tone

  • aggressive tone

  • friendly tone

  • curious tone

But the list is very long!

For the purpose of this article, we'll start with the hypocritical tone:

Hypocritical Tone Definition

Hypocrisy is perhaps slightly more complex of a concept than other negative emotions and behaviours such as aggression and seriousness, however, it is likely one that you're familiar with in some form or another. Let's break it down:

Hypocritical meaning

Hypocritical is an adjective, or a word that describes a noun.

Hypocritical means acting in a way that goes against what someone says that they think or feel. It can also refer to criticising others for behaviours that you yourself engage in.

Hypocrisy, which is the noun form of hypocritical, is also often associated with someone taking a perceived moral high ground over someone else, even when their own behaviour does not conform to these morals.

If a parent tells their child that eating sugar every day is really bad for them, but then proceeds to eat sugary foods every day themselves, they are being hypocritical.

Hypocritical synonyms

There are quite a few hypocritical synonyms, most of which have a slightly different meaning but can be used in similar contexts. For instance:

  • sanctimonious: wanting or trying to be perceived as morally superior to others.

  • self-righteous: having the belief that one is always correct or better than others.

  • specious: seeming possible at a superficial level but actually misleading or wrong.

  • holier-than-thou: having the misplaced belief that one is morally superior to other people.

As you can see, these words might have slightly different meanings, but can still be used in place of hypocritical in many situations.

Hypocritical and Cooperative Hypocritical Tone StudySmarterHypocrisy is often characterised by acting in a way that contradicts what one has said.

Ways to create a hypocritical tone

When we talk about a hypocritical tone, we're referring to interactions where one person has either said something but done the opposite, or comes across as morally superior even though their actions might suggest otherwise.

There are several ways of doing this in writing which we'll now explore.

  • Punctuation and capitalisation can be used to signal a morally superior attitude in writing: e.g. 'You're going to do it THAT way? Really?'

  • Non-lexical conversation sounds and tag phrases/questions can be used in writing as well as verbal interactions to show that sort of holier-than-thou tone commonly linked with being hypocritical: e.g. 'Oh, you're going to the party after all, huh? Fair enough, I guess.'

A non-lexical conversation sound is any sound made in conversation that is not a word in itself but still helps to convey meaning or the speaker's attitude in an utterance. Common examples include: 'umm', 'err', 'uhh', 'hmm'.

Tag phrases or tag questions are short phrases or questions added to the end of a sentence to contribute more meaning to them or to gain a certain response from the listener. For instance 'The weather is great today, isn't it?'. In this example, 'isn't it?' is the tag question and is used to gain approval or agreement from the listener.

  • Clearly showing how a character's actions and words don't match up is also a good way to demonstrate hypocrisy and therefore create a hypocritical tone: e.g. Sally had said she wasn't going to go to John's party, and made a disapproving comment when Thea said she was going to go. However, Sally then went to John's party after all.

In spoken interactions, many of the same techniques can be used to create a hypocritical tone. For example:

  • People might place emphasis on certain words to show that they feel distaste for something or feel superior to something: e.g. 'I wouldn't be caught DEAD wearing Crocs!'

  • Non-lexical conversation sounds and tag phrases can be used in spoken conversation in the same way they are used in writing.

  • As in writing, when our words and actions don't match up, we are being hypocritical.

Hypocritical Tone Examples

As always, let's tie up the loose ends of the hypocritical tone with some examples:

Hypocritical tone in a sentence (written communication)

If we look at the ways to create a hypocritical tone above, we can see that a lot of it has to do with punctuation and phrasing, as well as showing how actions and words might not align.

Thea walked to Sally's room to say goodbye before leaving for John's party. It had hurt her a bit when Sally had implied she was silly for wanting to go, but she didn't want to leave things on a bad note. As she opened Sally's door, she saw Sally crouching in front of her vanity mirror, apparently fixing her make-up.

'Where are you off to then?' Thea asked, confused.

'Umm, John's party, isn't it obvious?' Sally grabbed her bag from a chair and walked past Thea.

In this example, we get the background information that Sally's character had initially said she didn't want to go to John's party and thought that Thea was 'silly' for wanting to go. The lexical choice of 'silly' suggests to the reader that Sally has a superior attitude towards Thea and thinks herself above her. The fact that she then ends up going to the party despite previously belittling Thea for doing the same, intensifies the hypocritical tone; the difference between her words and actions is a clear example of hypocrisy. Sally also uses a non-lexical conversation sound 'Umm' and tag question 'isn't it obvious?' which suggest to the reader that she thinks Thea is stupid for not realising what is happening.

Verbal hypocritical tone example

In this verbal example, we see an argument between a football coach and the parent of one of the players.

Coach: 'This is RIDICULOUS?! How do you expect to win any games if you don't play to win? In the second half, I want to see you all WORKING, otherwise, you're gonna be BENCHED! Got it?'

Parent: 'Hey! They're just kids, calm down!'

Coach: 'Don't tell me to calm down, and don't raise your voice at me!'

Parent: 'Don't raise my voice at YOU? What do you think YOU'RE doing right now?'

In this example, the coach has yelled at the players for not playing as well as they should and the parent has defended them. The coach then got offended by this and shouted at the parent for them not to shout at him. This misalignment between his words and desires (for the parent not to shout at him) and his actions (continuing to shout at the parent himself) clearly show his hypocrisy and the parent then points this out.

Hypocritical and Cooperative Hypocritical Tone Examples StudySmarterShouting that you don't want to be shouted at is an example of hypocrisy.

Cooperative Tone Defintion

Whilst hypocrisy can be quite a tricky tone to quantify, cooperation is a much simpler concept. Let's look at a definition:

Cooperative meaning

Cooperative is also an adjective!

Being cooperative involves mutual effort to attain a common goal. This means that all parties involved are working together to achieve something; everyone is contributing in a helpful way.

Cooperation, which is the noun form of cooperative, is often associated with professional or educational situations. It often occurs in any situation where there is a project to be completed or a goal to be reached.

There is another meaning of cooperative where it's actually a noun, as in 'an argon oil cooperative' for example. This kind of cooperative refers to a small farm or business where the members who own it also run it and share in its profits equally.

Cooperative synonyms

There are loads of cooperative synonyms out there, some of which you might even have used yourself:

  • collaborative: produced or achieved by two or more parties working together.

  • communal: shared by all members of a community.

  • cross-party: involving or relating to the relationship between different parties when considering a particular cause or subject.

  • allied: working in combination/together with others to achieve a mutual goal.

This is just a small sample of all the possible cooperative synonyms!

Hypocritical and Cooperative Cooperative Tone StudySmarterA cooperative tone is helpful in professional and educational settings when working with others.

A cooperative tone can be created using many of the same techniques as you might when creating a hypocritical tone, however, to different effects. For example:

  • Punctuation and capitalisation can be used to signal a cooperative tone in writing by placing emphasis on certain words, drawing more attention to them: e.g. 'I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on how to approach this!'

  • Tag questions can be used to show inclusion or a collaborative approach to a topic: e.g. 'This branding could do with a revamp, don't you think?'

  • Showing how a character's actions and words relate to one another can also demonstrate a cooperative attitude: e.g. There's no point in making promises of collaboration if you don't follow through with working alongside others.

There are some other simple techniques that can be used too:

  • Using inherently cooperative language that includes others: e.g. 'we' and 'us', 'the team', 'group effort' etc.

  • Showing positivity and enthusiasm towards others: e.g. 'I'm really excited to work with you on this project!'

Cooperative Tone Examples

To round up this section on cooperative, let's check out some examples of a cooperative tone!

Written cooperative tone examples

It's pretty easy to create a cooperative tone in writing, and a lot of this comes down to coming across as friendly and collaborative so word choices and phrasing are very important.

James looked up from his laptop just as Sam tripped, sending a spray of papers flying across the floor. Sam huffed as he bent down to start gathering the papers. He smiled as James came over and bent down next to him.

'Ah thanks man!' he said, grateful for the help.

'No worries! Where were you off to? I can help carry some stuff.'

'Actually, I think we're working on the same account so you're probably heading in the same direction anyway.' Sam said, standing up with an armful of papers.

'Ideal! Lead the way!' James stepped aside for Sam to pass by.

The first hint of a cooperative tone is in the nature of the characters' interactions. James is friendly towards Sam and Sam smiles and thanks him in return for his help, showing that the two characters have a pleasant relationship. The fact that James goes to help Sam initially, and then offers further help by carrying some papers for him also shows a cooperative attitude. The mention of the two men working on the same project emphasises the cooperative tone by suggesting that they will go on to work together beyond this interaction. James telling Sam to 'lead the way' and expressing enthusiasm at the idea of working with him ('Ideal!') also contributes to the cooperative tone.

Verbal cooperative tone example

It's very likely you've used a cooperative tone in a spoken interaction with someone before, and we can use many of the techniques mentioned in the previous section to create this tone. For instance, this is a verbal interaction between two students working on a presentation together:

Tom: 'How do you think we should divide up the workload?'

Nancy: 'Well I'm not very good at numbers and you're way better at maths than me so would you want to do the math bits and I'll do the formatting?'

Tom: 'Yeah that sounds good! Probably smart to both stick to our strengths.'

Nancy: 'Woohoo, we've got this!'

In this example, Tom shows a collaborative attitude by asking his teammate what she thinks is the best way to start the project, instead of being demanding or unhelpful. They are able to agree on an approach that works for both of them, and they both express enthusiasm and positivity during the interaction ('that sounds good!' and 'Woohoo, we've got this!'). There is also the implication that both parties are going to do their fair share of the work which is fundamental in a cooperative undertaking.

Hypocritical and Cooperative Cooperative Tone Examples StudySmarterA cooperative approach is key in teamwork.

Hypocritical and Cooperative - Key Takeaways

  • There are many different tones that can be created in written and verbal interactions, and two of these are the hypocritical tone and the cooperative tone.
  • 'Tone' refers to the attitudes and perspectives that come across in an interaction or piece of writing, as well as how speakers use the different qualities of their voices to create meaning.
  • Different tones are created using a range of techniques including punctuation, word choices and phrasing, and vivid descriptions of characters actions.
  • The hypocritical tone is created when a character's actions and words don't match, or when someone speaks in a manner that suggests they feel morally superior to someone else.
  • The cooperative tone is created when people interact in a friendly and helpful manner, and are working together towards a common goal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Hypocritical vs Cooperative Tone

Hypocritical means speaking or behaving in a way that suggests one is morally superior than others, even if this is not the case. Hypocrisy is used to refer to when people's words or beliefs and their actions don't align. 

If a parent tells a child that eating sugary foods every day will make their teeth fall out, but then they eat sugary foods every day themselves, this is an example of being hypocritical. If you say that you don't agree with something but then you go and do it, this is also being hypocritical.

Being cooperative means working with others in a friendly and collaborative way to achieve a mutual goal.

'Cooperative' is the English spelling of the word. 

'Hypocritical' is the adjective form of the word 'hypocrite' which is a noun. A person who is hypocritical is a hypocrite. 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

What does 'tone' refer to in writing?

Which of these words does not relate to being hypocritical?

Which of these words does not relate to being cooperative?

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