Tone of voice

Tone of voice is how the character and intentions of your communication come through in your contracts. It is the way you say something, rather than what you say: it can affect how your communication is received and the impression you make on your counterparty. Tone of voice patterns can help you deliberately choose and shape how you say things, and how you are perceived.

In contracts, almost everyone uses, by default, a legalistic, technical, verbose, formal, and impersonal tone of voice. But this may not reflect the actual values of your organization, or the nature of the relationship you are trying to build with your counterparty. Certain groups of readers may be put off by this default tone of voice, and they may not read or engage with your contract. At worst, they may misunderstand your intentions, or not want to do business with your organization at all! In many situations, it is strategically wise to reassure readers with a more informal and approachable tone of voice, and let the values of your organization shine through. Tone of voice patterns offer you ways to be in control of this crucial aspect of communication.


The right tone of voice can help contract crafters with these problems:
  • “People misunderstand the intentions behind the contract, they look at us with suspicion”
  • “People do not want to do business with us”
  • “Our counterparty seems to distrust us”
  • “Potential clients are scared away by the contract”
  • “We cannot work with SMEs, they feel threatened by the contract”


The right tone of voice can help contract readers with these problems:
  • “I am not a lawyer and this document sounds like it is for lawyers: it is not for me”
  • “I don’t understand what this contract means: I don’t trust who created it”
  • “This contract sounds unfair and aggressive: I don’t want to do business with this firm”
  • “They have chosen to call this an invitation for proposals, but it is not inviting at all”
  • “All these words ‘hereby’ and ‘hereinafter’, this is just way too legally framed”
  • “If this company is innovative, why do they use ancient language?”