Tone and Mood

The tone and mood words listed below are also available as a Word document.

Tone and mood both deal with the emotions centered around a piece of writing. Though they seem similar and can in fact be related causally, they are in fact quite different.

Tone

Tone is the author’s attitude toward a subject. While journalistic writing theoretically has a tone of distance and objectivity, all other writing can have various tones.

If we were to read a description of a first date that included words and phrases like “dreaded” and “my buddies forced me to go on the date”, we could assume that the individual didn’t really enjoy the date.

Some tone words include:

POSITIVE TONE WORDS

NEUTRAL

(+,, or neutral)

NEGATIVE TONE WORDS

admiring

adoring

affectionate

appreciative

approving

bemused

benevolent

blithe

calm

casual

celebratory

cheerful

comforting

comic

compassionate

complimentary

conciliatory

confident

contented

delightful

earnest

ebullient

ecstatic

effusive

elated

empathetic

encouraging

euphoric

excited

exhilarated

expectant

facetious

fervent

flippant

forthright

friendly

funny

gleeful

gushy

happy

hilarious

hopeful

humorous

interested

introspective

jovial

joyful

laudatory

light

lively

mirthful

modest

nostalgic

optimistic

passionate

placid

playful

poignant

proud

reassuring

reflective

relaxed

respectful

reverent

romantic

sanguine

scholarly

self-assured sentimental

serene

silly

sprightly

straightforward

sympathetic

tender

tranquil

whimsical

wistful

worshipful

zealous

commanding

direct

impartial

indirect

meditative

objective

questioning

speculative

unambiguous

unconcerned

understated

abhorring

acerbic

ambiguous

ambivalent

angry

annoyed

antagonistic

anxious

apathetic

apprehensive

belligerent

bewildered

biting

bitter

blunt

bossy

cold

conceited

condescending

confused

contemptuous

curt

cynical

demanding

depressed

derisive

derogatory

desolate

despairing

desperate

detached

diabolic

disappointed

disliking

disrespectful

doubtful

embarrassed

enraged

evasive

fatalistic

fearful

forceful

foreboding

frantic

frightened

frustrated

furious

gloomy

grave

greedy

grim

harsh

haughty

holier-than-thou

hopeless

hostile

impatient

incredulous

indifferent

indignant

inflammatory

insecure

insolent

irreverent

lethargic

melancholy

mischievous

miserable

mocking

mournful

nervous

ominous

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outraged

paranoid

pathetic

patronizing

pedantic

pensive

pessimistic

pretentious

psychotic

resigned

reticent

sarcastic

sardonic

scornful

self-deprecating

selfish

serious

severe

sinister

skeptical

sly

solemn

somber

stern

stolid

stressful

strident

suspicious

tense

threatening

tragic

uncertain

uneasy

unfriendly

unsympathetic

upset

violent

wry

Mood

Mood is the atmosphere of a piece of writing; it’s the emotions a selection arouses in a reader.

Some common mood descriptors are:

POSITIVE MOOD WORDS

NEGATIVE MOOD WORDS

amused

awed

bouncy

calm

cheerful

chipper

confident

contemplative

content

determined

dignified

dreamy

ecstatic

empowered

energetic

enlightened

enthralled

excited

exhilarated

flirty

giddy

grateful

harmonious

hopeful

hyper

idyllic

joyous

jubilant

liberating

light-hearted

loving

mellow

nostalgic

optimistic

passionate

peaceful

playful

pleased

refreshed

rejuvenated

relaxed

relieved

satiated

satisfied

sentimental

silly

surprised

sympathetic

thankful

thoughtful

touched

trustful

vivacious

warm

welcoming

aggravated

annoyed

anxious

apathetic

apprehensive

barren

brooding

cold

confining

confused

cranky

crushed

cynical

depressed

desolate

disappointed

discontented

distressed

drained

dreary

embarrassed

enraged

envious

exhausted

fatalistic

foreboding

frustrated

futile

gloomy

grumpy

haunting

heartbroken

hopeless

hostile

indifferent

infuriated

insidious

intimidated

irate

irritated

jealous

lethargic

lonely

melancholic

merciless

moody

morose

nauseated

nervous

nightmarish

numb

overwhelmed

painful

pensive

pessimistic

predatory

rejected

restless

scared

serious

sick

somber

stressed

suspenseful

tense

terrifying

threatening

uncomfortable

vengeful

violent

worried

One good way to see mood (and, to a degree, tone) in action is through genre-crossing movie trailers. In film editing classes throughout the States, a common assignment is to take an existing film (say, a comedy) and create a film preview that presents the film as a different genre (for example, a horror film). This is accomplished through editing and splicing scenes, adding new, anxiety-producing music and sound effects, and adding a new voice-over introduction.

Some of the best examples of this are below.