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Web Standards

Voice and tone

One way we write empowering content is by being aware of our voice and our tone. This section explains the difference between voice and tone, and lays out the elements of each as they apply to HFS.

What’s the difference between voice and tone? Think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you're out to dinner with your closest friends, and a different tone when you're in a meeting with your boss.

Your tone also changes depending on the emotional state of the person you’re addressing. You wouldn’t want to use the same tone of voice with someone who’s scared or upset as you would with someone who’s laughing.

The same is true for HFS. Our voice doesn’t change much from day to day, but our tone changes all the time.


HFS’s voice is a reflection of our passion: to foster holistic learning. Everything we do is with the intent of creating opportunities for our students to grow in all aspects of their lives.

Our students are a passionate, collaborative and diverse generation. We support their creativity and boundless potential as they stand ready to strengthen our communities and build an innovative and inclusive world for all.

We like to communicate in a friendly, straightforward way. We consider our voice to be:

  • Helpful
  • Confident
  • Friendly
  • Instructive
  • Welcoming to all audiences

We believe that HFS communication can—and should—be fun and easy to read, and our voice represents this.

In all of the communication we produce, we want to create a strong connection with our readers. We want to get them the information they need in a straightforward way and show that we know what’s important to them. As a state institution, we need to sound somewhat official; we also recognize that official doesn’t need to translate to stuffy or cold.

We never want readers to forget that HFS is a group of enthusiastic, dedicated, hardworking (and friendly) folks. This desire informs how we craft our voice.


HFS’s tone is usually informal, but it’s always more important to be clear than entertaining. When you’re writing, consider the reader’s state of mind. Are they relieved to be finished with finals? Are they confused and seeking our help on how to change their dining plan? Are they curious about a post on our Facebook page? Once you have an idea of their emotional state, you can adjust your tone accordingly.

Pinpointing the most appropriate tone for a piece of content starts with identifying what your readers might be feeling when they read that content.

If you’re having trouble finding an appropriate tone, try reframing the situation: How would you talk to a friend who’s in the same situation as your target user? Remembering that written communication is a conversation can help you settle on the best tone for your purpose.