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.

This page was last modified on October 2, 2014.

68 Responses to “Tone and Mood”

  1. lado danny says:

    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. Karen B says:

    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. storie says:

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

  5. J West says:

    Me likey!!

  6. [...] to this effect.  Check out this link for some examples of changing the mood/tone of a movie: http://ourenglishclass.net/class-notes/writing/the-writing-process/craft/tone-and-mood/ read the information and then scroll to the bottom to see the links to the video clips [...]

  7. KIERRA LOWE says:

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

  8. Melissa says:

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

  9. Harry says:

    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

  10. 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.

  11. Kate Mackezie Reed says:

    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!!!!

    • JJ says:

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

      • Mr. Scott says:

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

        • Lisa Hamel says:

          [...] 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!

  12. Julie Ward says:

    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.

    • Mr. Scott says:

      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!

  13. bob says:

    thanks for the website

  14. Mellisa says:

    GOOD :D

  15. Lauren says:

    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.

  16. Reiko says:

    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!

  17. mutuma wilfred says:

    kudoz to this post… it has helped me

  18. Trina Dahl says:

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

  19. Mr. Scott says:

    Thank you for the comment. Still, I have to disagree, for reasons such as these: http://motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/tag/center-around/

  20. moshej says:

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

  21. […] After discussing our first story, I will be walking you through the difference between mood and tone. We will then apply this to our next short story, The Masque of the Red Death. Again, I will be […]

  22. […] his particularly dark and morbid stories. If you need a refresher on either mood or tone, check out this site. Finally, we will be watching a short video of the story and comparing its mood and tone to […]

  23. Demari Coppedge says:

    Oh I get it wow the enternet make everything easy

  24. meazy ann resurreccion says:

    thank you

  25. Angelina says:

    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!!!!!! :(

  26. 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

  27. jade sautter says:

    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.

  28. mmhmmmhm says:

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

  29. Legend says:

    Brilliant……. very useful for IB English Commentaries

  30. […] for mood and tone, and then we discussed the distinctions between them. I then directed them to a website with extensive lists of tone words and mood words, and tasked them to choose 10 words from each […]

  31. ASDFFDSA says:

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

    • Mr. Scott says:

      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.

  32. Stephanie Thomas says:

    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.

    • Mr. Scott says:

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

  33. Safa says:

    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

  34. Hannie says:

    This was very helpful, thanks a lot

  35. […] or joyful! Make sure kids know that they develop mood by making their reader feel something. Don’t confuse this with tone, another literary device which refers to the author’s attitude toward the […]

  36. Anwar Adam says:

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

  37. lakayila jaide says:

    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.

    • Mr. Scott says:

      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…

  38. Dominick says:

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

Please let me know how I can help you.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On PinterestCheck Our Feed