1. You should play the piano.
2. Why don't you play the piano?
3. Only smart people play the piano.
Each sentence has a different tone. One sounds like a command, the other is a gentle persuasion, and the last one has a more aggressive tone.
When you're taking the HESI A2 reading comprehension section, one of the five different kinds of questions you will be the ability to identify the author's tone and purpose.
Here are some ways on how to identify what the author is saying, and how they are saying it.
Author’s Tone & Purpose
What is author’s tone?
Author’s tone is the way the author speaks through her/his words. The author’s tone includes the words that he/she uses to describe people, situations, and events. The tone gives the reader clues about how the author thinks or feels about particular subjects and people. We get a sense of the author’s attitude.
What’s its purpose?
Part of the purpose of tone is to create the mood of the piece. Mostly, however, the tone of the text gives the reader insight into why the author is writing in the first place, especially in non-fiction writing. The reader can infer the author’s purpose by identifying tone.
Why is it important?
Author’s tone is important because, along with clueing the reader into the purpose of the text, it allows the reader to engage in a deeper way by identifying whether the text is fact or opinion, an expository or persuasive piece, etc. Evaluating the tone also requires the reader to check his or her own biases and prejudices in relation to the topic. Do you find yourself sympathizing with something simply because of how the author speaks? The tone may be partially responsible!
How to identify
Tone can be tricky to identify, but some general rules are to look to the adjectives and descriptions of people, places, and events in the text. How is the author using his words? What words is he/she choosing? How does he/she compare and contrast within the text?
Is the author trying to prove something to the reader? Or else have something to gain? Are the adjectives used almost exclusively negative or have negative connotations? If asked, how would the author respond about the characters, events, or places? What would their face look like when asked?
Example: “And the trees all died. They were orange trees. I don’t know why they died, they just died. Something wrong with the soil possibly or maybe the stuff we got from the nursery wasn’t the best. We complained about it. So we’ve got thirty kids there, each kid had his or her own little tree to plant and we’ve got these thirty dead trees. All these kids looking at these little brown sticks, it was depressing.”
What is the author’s tone in this passage?
The answer is C.) negative because he uses words like depressing and complained. Notice how he is abrupt with his sentences and uses the word “just”. Think about a time you were disappointed and angry. Were you using long, drawn-out sentences or did you say something, then stop, then start again? That is what our author is conveying!
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