Creative writing exercise for translators: tone of voice

Tone of voice is a big part of our translation work. In order to accurately convey our client’s message in another language, we need to understand who they are themselves, who their potential customers are and how they want to come across to those potential customers.

When working with bigger brands, we often receive a very well-defined style guide which details the tone of voice and even gives examples of ‘buyer personas’, which is very helpful for us as translators. But even without a style guide, we need to be able to look at a source text, identify the tone of voice and apply it consistently to our translations.

Tone of voice is more than just a vague notion of ‘wanting to come across friendly/sarcastic/helpful etc.’ It is about what vocabulary we use, whether we use an active or passive voice, how a piece of text is structured and much more. If you’d like to read up about tone of voice, then this article from Distilled is a good starting point.

But that’s enough theory for now, let’s get practicing. Here is our tone of voice writing exercise for translators:

Grab your notepad and pen and head to a coffee shop, bar, restaurant or hotel lounge near you. (The exercise takes roughly an hour).

Choose two of the scenarios below and describe the place you are at in around 200 words for each scenario. Write in your mother tongue.

  • Scenario 1: You are the marketing manager of XXX and you are writing this text for a brochure that will advertise XXX. Tell the reader why it’s worth coming here and what they can expect.
  • Scenario 2: You are a critic for a lifestyle magazine. You have a sarcastic tone – you might like the place, or you might hate it, it’s up to you, but describe your surroundings with sarcasm in your voice.
  • Scenario 3: You are a first time visitor at XXX and you are writing a review on TripAdvisor. You absolutely love the place, you admire the décor, the food is to die for. You want to live here. Write your review with love and admiration in your heart.
  • Scenario 4: You are a council worker and your job is to write a subjective summary of XXX. Describe the layout, the staff, the food, whatever catches your eye, but write in a neutral tone that doesn’t show any emotion or any like or dislike.

Happy writing! Let us know how it went and feel free to share your musings with us. We’d love to see what you came up with.

Interested in more creative writing exercises for translators? Check out this exercise on how to add empathy to a text, or this exercise about how to write a marketing text to a brief.