We use content to strategically support our mission, and it’s important to speak to diverse audiences and needs. Our style is part of our strategy, and for written content, that starts with our voice.
SBA’s voice is our public personality. We have only one voice, and it doesn’t change much day-to-day.
Tone is how voice changes to fit a situation. It’s what makes SBA’s voice appropriate in any a given context. Voice is about the SBA, but tone is about the reader.
Think of SBA’s voice the same way you think of yours. You only have one voice, but you use it in different ways every day.
Our voice is …
Official but not formal
Direct but not cold
Affirming but not endorsing
Authentic but not personal
Our voice is: Official
We’re a decisive authority, but we can still be down-to-earth and accessible.
Our voice is: Direct
Say what you mean and get to the point, but not at the expense of warmth. Keep it simple, but stay human.
Our voice is: Affirming
We’re positive and support people who want to start a business, but we never promise success.
Our voice is: Authentic
We’re the real deal. Be sincere and realistic to build trust, but don’t try to be someone’s best friend.
Choose Your Tone
When you write, consider the reader’s state of mind. Once you have an idea of their emotional state, you can adjust your tone to reflect their needs.
You’ll have to determine the right tone on a case-by-case basis, so there’s no ultimate guide. But, these guidelines will help.
Remember the purpose. Content should exist for a reason. If the content is meant to teach, take on a more instructional tone. If it’s to convince, a persuasive or dramatic tone. To troubleshoot a problem? Straightforward and calm.
Know the context. Think about what happens immediately before and after the reader experiences the content. This will help you know what the user will be expecting, and whether they’ll be surprised by your content.
Write with empathy. Think about the reader’s emotional state. Understand their frame of mind and use a tone that’s appropriate.
Read it out loud. Listen for awkward constructions and phrases you wouldn’t actually say in conversation. Try having someone else who hasn’t seen it before read it out loud to you. For more guidance on finding the appropriate tone, review the content types in this guide.