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

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.

181 Comments


  1. thank you so much for listing the adjectives of tone and mood,the difference is easier to understand and is improving my grades I feel enlightened,empowered, and refreshed,it’s a job well done.BRAVO,BRAVO,……………LITERATURE FOREVER


  2. I love the movie trailers! Thanks so much for sharing.


  3. umm, yes; all of this helped a little with the adjectives with the tone & mood, but its just blank..its not entertaining. try to make it more visual appealing! thanks(:


  4. You create something; if I like it, I’ll post it.


  5. u need to be able to click on the word for definition.


  6. Perhaps. But if that were the case, whence would you gain the satisfaction of the search in your quest for knowledge? (In other words, wouldn’t that make it too easy?)



  7. thanks for the help my seventh grade year is going to rock now that i finally know what mood and tone


  8. Glad I could be of help.


  9. Thank you needed to understand for my english essay and my mom didnt have a clue. Thank you!


  10. Not a problem.


  11. I teach Sophomore english at Milford High School in Cincinnati,OH and I just wanted to thank your for this list, I’ll be passing it out to my class on Monday as we start our poetry unit.

    Thanks!

    -Harry Smith


  12. I’m glad it was helpful.


  13. Thank you very much for your post. Great list of adjectives and a good teacher can get their students to act out the different emotions created by specific adjectives, make it into a contest even teenagers would love that. I also liked the film snippets, Mary Poppins was by far the best…a children’s story made creepy!!! wow.
    Thank you once again.


  14. It helped SOOOO much! Thank you! I had to make a poster on mood & teach it to the class (weird pick, right?) and the examples heped a TON and your descriptions were PERECT for a class of oblivious, lazy and dumb 6th graders!
    Thanks, again!!!!


  15. Great film clips! Thanks.
    However, I’d be inclined to delete posts that suggests any student(s) to be ‘oblivious, lazy and dumb’ and, perhaps, advise that teacher to reassess her opinions, and seek up to date training on student-centered pedagogic techniques and effective communication/behavioral approaches.


  16. I think the previous comment came from a student in said class. The fact that she said “I had to make a poster on mood & teach it to the class” makes me think it’s something that doesn’t happen often, which makes it unlike this is a teacher. Additionally, the parenthetical remark, “weird pick, right?” implies that students had to choose topics from a list, which the teacher presumably provided. If it were a teacher, I probably wouldn’t have approved it. As it is, it sounds like one sixth grader referring to her peers (perhaps with tongue in cheek) as “oblivious, lazy and dumb.” I would, however, suggest that this student look into the use of the Oxford comma!


  17. thanks for the website


  18. Thank you so much! I printed out the word document. I’m in my final year of high school and I can never find the right word to describe the tone and mood of a text in exams. This was super helpful and beautifully laid out.


  19. Hello,

    I’m a junior and I was having such a hard time to describe what mood or tone it is for the chapters in the books our teacher was making us read! this website is helping me tremendously in getting my summer homework done for AP Eng 11. Thank you!


  20. kudoz to this post… it has helped me


  21. Centered Around?? You cannot “Center Around” anything — only center ON.


  22. Much gratitude to you, sir. I have linked to your brilliant resource. You can find me at moshej.edublogs.org.



  23. hihihihihihihihihih



  24. Oh I get it wow the enternet make everything easy


  25. thank you


  26. You’re welcome. I’m glad you found it useful.


  27. this gave me a lot of ideas for responses


  28. You should really try to pu what MOOD means.I already know what TONE is but i want to know what MOOD is! This was WORTHLESS!!!!!! 🙁


  29. Thank you for the constructive criticism. I wish you luck finding a web site more suited to your needs.


  30. thanks for making me understand the difference of tone and mood, really helped me a lot in order to get a good grade in my english assignment for “Master Harold” … and they boys


  31. Im doing a reading papper in my class in sixth grae and i think that your definitions may have some things that you are missing ion this sight.


  32. I would appreciate any suggestions you could offer.


  33. spectacular this is going to help me a lot on the test


  34. Glad to help.


  35. These are merely meant to be notes from class, not actual first-exposure instructional material.


  36. Brilliant……. very useful for IB English Commentaries


  37. Glad you find it useful.



  38. This sucks. It doesn’t even tell you what the stupid definitions are.


  39. Thank you for the constructive criticism. I trust you noticed that this is a site for my students, using my lessons, with my general unit plans and goals in mind, and that it is not a general help site. To that end, I wish you luck in finding a site that meets your needs. This site I found seems like a good place to start for definitions.


  40. Thank you for your list. It helped me tremendously with my assessment rubric. Also, you have given me ideas to add to my own class website.


  41. I’m glad you found it useful. As for the web site, it’s a work in progress, about seven years in the making.


  42. You must be the greatest teacher ever for making a website just for your students to improve. This helped me a lot during my finals thank you so much.
    ~some random 7th grader


  43. Thank you. It has taken almost ten years to create all of this.


  44. This was very helpful, thanks a lot


  45. You need to stop teaching if you think your students are “oblivious, lazy and dumb 6th graders!”


  46. you sir need to caaaammm dddoooowwwnn


  47. If you read that comment closely, you’ll realize that it was another student writing that.



  48. […] I just downloaded the Word version of the tone and mood lists, and I love it. Have you considered adding your url to the footer of the document? You should definitely get credit for your hard work!



  49. Hi, I need a tone word for a situation where the author is fine with both decisions a character takes.


  50. Indifferent? Ambivalent?


  51. I think indifferent works, thank you



  52. uhhh it helped a little with understanding tone and mood, but not really how to find it and that is what I am struggling with the most.


  53. i need a negative word were the author is a little down sided with many different stories


  54. Not sure I understand.


  55. Sorry I couldn’t be of more service. Perhaps if you were in my class and saw how I use it there, it would help. But alas…


  56. Mr. Scott, great article!. I struggle with dyslexia and I am in digital marketing. I recently open a company where I am finding myself having to write a lot which I actually like. Some times it comes out a little backwards but I can always edit the copy. This post has a great way to explain how to write constantly in the same voice for a client.


  57. Dear Nick,

    I’m fairly certain that’s not your name: surely you’re not so naive as to put your real name here. Still, I’ll call you Nick since you gave that name.

    The funny thing about the internet is that it is not anonymous, even if you put a false name down. When you leave a comment, for example, most web sites record the IP address of the visitor. Your IP address when you sent the message was 64.246.196.136, which according to http://whois.arin.net/http://whois.arin.net/ is registered to your school (http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/64.246.196.136), the Milton Hershey school. As such, I’ve sent word to your school about your actions.

    Expect your internet privileges to be curtailed shortly.

    Have a nice day.


  58. Thanks Judd. I took the liberty of removing the link to your web site — it just sounded a little spammy. Still, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I left the actual message up.


  59. Thank you so much for helping me and my young student I tutor in answering the question about the mood in stories or books she is assigned to read. It had been surprisingly difficult to describe those moods; we had to dug in the thesaurus to come up with some answer.
    Many thanks again.


  60. Mr. Scott,

    I was researching tone words for an AP English Lang/Comp assignment, and I stumbled upon this familiar-looking website. I scrolled all the way down and saw your face in the comments, and I couldn’t believe I had forgotten all about the website we used all of my eighth grade year. It’s incredible that you’re still helping me, even three years later. Your class is one of the hardest English classes I’ve ever taken, but it definitely prepared me for the no-nonsense teaching methods that my current teacher uses. Thank you so much for everything! I hope you and your family are well.


  61. I’m glad I was able indirectly to help, Sara. I appreciate your comment. It’s just another reason why we all enjoyed working with you so much: you were always so maturely considerate.


  62. explain to me the techniques in literature


  63. Sorry — that’s not within the scope of this site.


  64. Wow, this was a brilliant piece of work. I appreciate it greatly, thank you very much! I was assigned to complete an activity of the terms of conflict, rising action, theme, climax, plot, falling action, introduction, resolution, tone, and the mood for my 6th grade advanced ELA class. Thank you again, I admire your perseverance into helping other people, including myself.


  65. Thank you for the links to the video clips … great resource for this English teacher 🙂


  66. I may have a crappy browser, or are the clips supposed to be blank with sound only? Thanks for the ideas, I’m working on a unit plan to identify tone and mood using Night. If I can get the clips that might be a way to lighten a heavy unit.


  67. Hello Mr.Scott Do you know if exist the tone convince in English, when the author try to convince the audience to do or believe in something, thank you for your help 🙂


  68. Persuasive?


  69. Thank you so much!! I’m in 8th grade writing an essay about tone and mood and I found this very helpful for examples. Keep up the great work!!


  70. This was an excellent article in understanding tone and mood in writing.


  71. Every buddy hear shood no dat dis websyte is undr inspectshon frum thee F.B.I.


  72. And everyone should recognize your comment for what it is based on the spelling.


  73. It’s a horror film from the eighties.


  74. Wow you comment a lot!


  75. I like how you follow up with the comments posted on your blog, some people post something that can be really helpful but they don’t follow up with the comments. Your list was very helpful! Thank you!!!!


  76. Thank you very much, it has been difficult to distinguished between tone and mood. From your wonderful lesson posted I know what tone and mood is. Thanks!


  77. I’m glad it was helpful. They are indeed difficult to tell apart.


  78. Because I try always to reply to comments!


  79. Is there a sure-fire way I could differentiate between tone and mood, let’s say, on an exam? I sometimes struggle whenever it comes down to knowing which one the author is referring to.


  80. Thank you so much for the website! I at first had trouble with tone and mood, but now I don’t. Thank you again!


  81. It’s a functional difference. Tone is how the author seems to feel about the topic. It’s a little trickier because you have to see in someone else’s head. Mood is how the reader feels when reading it, which is easier because it’s just you you’re worried about.

    Don’t know if that helps.


  82. I’m happy it helped you out.


  83. this is realy cool


  84. Thank you for making this website, it help with my classes projects
    ¨p.s im not the teacher¨


  85. thank you for your webite


  86. i love this website meow meow


  87. One way to help students remember the difference in tone and mood is to think of the letters in the word: Tone = auThor; Mood = Me (the reader). At least my 8th graders have found this helpful… Great site, by the way!


  88. Add Frozen as a horror film, my students loved this one.


  89. Great! Thanks for sharing.


  90. Brilliant!!! Thank you SO much! 🙂


  91. Can’t tone and mood be alike


  92. They certainly can be. Sometimes the tone and the mood can be identical. If a writer is writing out of disgust about a topic and wishes the reader to feel the same, it would stand to reason that if the piece is effectively written, it will have a tone and a mood of disgust. It’s rare, I would think, that such is the case, though.


  93. Thank you. I’m glad it was helpful.


  94. thank you very much this was very helpful for my English homework.
    Oli


  95. Excellent way to teach tone and mood. You are a genius. My students were fascinated by the way Frozen was changed to a horror movie. This was the best example. Thank you


  96. Thank you — I’m glad it was helpful.


  97. My son is a sophomore and we just talked about this last night. This will help him tremendously. thank you very much for posting and sharing with others. you never know who or when you will have an impact on someone. great job, your students are lucky.


  98. Thank you for the kind words.


  99. The videos are a great way to demonstrate changes in mood and tone. Thank you.


  100. Very helpful



  101. The word lists are great and I think the videos you posted will really send home the message about tone and mood. Thank you, so much!!



  102. Thanks for sharing your videos. I am a teacher in the Selinsgrove Area School District in PA. I was wondering if you would mind if I use your videos on our school districts website as examples for tone and mood?

    Thanks,
    Faithe Bastian


  103. No problem!


  104. Hi Mr. Scott I am an education student and I want to learn on what are the ways of teaching “tone” to the students. can you give me any suggestions? thanks


  105. The most important thing for teaching tone (and mood, though less so) is to have students focus on word choice and the inferences we can make from individual words. Rewriting sentences with synonyms is a good way to get them in the tonal door, so to speak.


  106. OMG thanks a million. All the info was really helpful


  107. really cool! wow


  108. Thanks so much helped me write a memoir with the mood words. Thanks :3


  109. Lately I’ve been having issues between describing words and mood in “The Cask of Amontillado,” but your list has helped tremendously. Thank you!


  110. please post a link of an analysis of sir walter raleighs poem on the life of man concentrating on tone.


  111. I’m sorry, I only put material for my own classes here. I don’t teach any of Raleigh’s work.


  112. This is amazing! I just started teaching 11-12 graders (a bit different from you), but I think some of your resources are really helpful! I am currently teaching creative writing and plan to use this tone and mood page for some additional support when teaching it! Thank you for this!


  113. I’m glad you find it helpful. Good luck with the new adventure.



  114. Why are you such a [expletive deleted] all the time?



  115. If you have a criticism of me personally or professionally and you wish me to take it seriously, please refrain from profanity-laden comments that only make you look like the child you apparently are. I will be glad to discuss any matter with you as an adult. If, however, you prefer to act like a child, I will simply edit out the profanity and let your immaturity shine.

    Regards,
    Mr. Scott


  116. Hey, would you consider “Prideful”, “Hopeful” , “Inspiration”, and “Bravery” types of mood? If not, what would you consider these adjectives to be? Thank You.


  117. Thanks for the comment/question.

    I would say “prideful” and “hopeful” are good adjectives for mood or even tone. “Inspiration,” however, is a noun, as is “bravery.” “Inspirational” would certainly be a good adjective for tone or mood. “Brave” or “courageous” might be a little tricky, but I suppose a piece might have a courageous tone or mood.


  118. Thank you for the help Mr. Scott. One more thing, would you consider “Curious” or “Curiosity” a mood? If not, what would you consider it?


  119. I think an inquisitive tone is certainly possible, but I’m not sure about a “curious” mood unless you mean “curious” in the older sense of strange and unexpected. Remember: mood is the feeling in the reader. Perhaps in an expository piece the writer could make the reader curious about the topic, and one could therefore make an argument that there’s a mood of curiosity about the piece. What piece do you have in mind?


  120. Hey this is helpful, but I was wondering how i would be able to convey a tone, or mood, (not quite sure which) of disgust in a poem Thanks in advance.


  121. Word choice is the most logical way to go. Other than that, I can’t help you much as it’s beyond the scope of this site. Sorry. Thanks for visiting, though.


  122. This is tremendous! Just so you know, I enjoy your “Thank you for your constructive criticism” responses to the comments here more than the videos! Bahahahaha! (Dictionary.com link was classic!) Ahhahahaha! Love from a fellow English teacher in NV.


  123. This definitely did NOT help me at all.


  124. this is total —-!!!


  125. I’m sorry this didn’t help you. It appears that, based upon your tone and your reluctance to use standard punctuation and capitalization consistently, you might need some more basic help. At any rate, using profanity with strangers usually doesn’t do much more than make them laugh at your immaturity. Any other readers care to take it up with Ashton? Feel free: ashtonlellis@gmail.com


  126. hi Mr.Scott its nice to talk to you



  127. thankyou so much, this most definitely helped my child in her English speech! 🙂 but those ads on the right are blocking the negative tone words 🙁 lucky we didn’t need them! just thought id bring that up! Xx


  128. whoops ! so sorry! I thought the definitions on the side were ads!! :0 sorry again!!! Xx


  129. This is an amazing resource for me…I’m an AP Lit teacher at a school with an open door policy on AP classes. Having multiple ways of explaining terms and concepts is so helpful. I never would’ve thought of the movie trailers. Thank you!




  130. I love the horror ones they are awesome


  131. This is awesome! Thank you for making my lesson over ‘mood’ run so smoothly for my 7th graders!


  132. They are soooooooo good


  133. I Love the frozen one and the scary mary



  134. the film clips were cool and all but I didn’t find what I was looking for 🙁


  135. I’m sorry to hear that.


  136. lol


  137. yOUR WEB PAGE [redacted for good taste] BECAUSE OF THE [redacted] ADDS I CANT SEE THE NEGATIVE TONES


  138. Dear Bombon Asesino,

    I appreciate well-written comments that provide constructive criticism about the content of this site. Allow me to return the favor and provide some constructive criticism of your comment:

    • Your use of reversed-caps (using capital letters where lowercase would normally be used and vice versa) is a little odd and confusing. If it’s a marketing trick, I would recommend not using it.
    • Your refusal to use punctuation marks makes it seem like you really don’t understand basic English grammar and usage. Since the quality of your thinking belies this, I would take the time to check carefully my use of punctuation if I were you.
    • When you leave a comment on a web site, you’re leaving it there forever. When you include an email like you did (twin12345@hotmail.com), it provides yet another link to your online presence. When you’re looking for a job and potential employers are running an online background check (and these are quite extensive these days), they might very well find that comment if the web site owner chose to publish it, as I did. Why did I do this? You’re a smart one — I’m sure you can figure it out.
    • Finally, regarding the content of your message: I apologize that ad placement (notice the spelling: “add” is a verb while “ad” is the shortened version of “advertisement”) and the fact that it interrupted your reading experience. If, however, you’d read closely, you’d see that there is also a downloadable Word version of the list, which contains no ads whatsoever. So before making such accusations as you did in your wonderful comment, make sure you’re in the right.

    In closing, I’d like to encourage you not to make a fool of yourself when you can avoid it.

    Kindest regards,
    Mr. Scott


  139. This is really helpful! Thanks a lot!!


  140. I’m glad it helped you. Thank you for the comment.


  141. Thank you so much Mr. Scott for providing the word document as well as the website. Having a quick go-to resource for differentiating tone and mood words is going to be a huge benefit for my 7th graders. Not mention the amount of time you’ve saved this first year teacher. 🙂 I love the movie clip idea as well!


  142. Thank you for sharing this work. It will be useful for my new English class as we explore the Horror genre in our creative writing. And I love the new version of The Shining! Fabulous.



  143. Hi Mr. Scott! I appreciate you helping to quickly distinguish between terms… as many people have problems with this while reading literature! I have enjoyed your comments roasting those who have mentioned that this “didn’t help” them in their own separate classes. Keep up the good work, I’m sure your students love you!


  144. Thank you so much, Mr. Scott! This page was very useful for an article project. It’ll also be very useful in my own personal writing. I really appreciate it!


  145. I teach ESL and this will help my middle school students tremendously! Thanks so much, BRAVO! 🙂


  146. Really helpful thank you.


  147. Thank you for this wonderful website! This can be conceptually difficult to teach, and my students and I really enjoyed beginning our lesson on tone and mood with movies and directorial choices. It definitely made it more concrete, hopefully preventing basic confusion when we analyze complex texts later this week. Thanks again!


  148. This was a little confusing…, but after I read it again it made more sense. Thanks so much!


  149. This post is really helpful to improve writing skills and creating a good content. Thanks for sharing a great source of information with us.

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