Which of these would be the best way to speak to your audience?

1. “Thoughts? Send ’em our way.”

2. “To submit a comment, please complete the form below.”

The answer: It depends. You need to define your voice and tone to determine which approach is appropriate. If you’re trying to be personable and approachable, #1 would be best. But if you’re striving for a most institutional tone, #2 might be better.

Deciding on voice and tone

Two elements inform voice and tone: who you are speaking to, and how you want them to perceive you. Let’s say your target audience is undergraduate college students, and you are a master’s program trying to attract them.

You could try a snarky voice to try to emulate the way they speak to each other. You might as well throw in some memes from Reddit, while you’re at it. That might be effective if your brand identity includes anti-establishment tendencies.

If you’re more of a distinguished brand, the snarky approach could well hurt you, giving the impression that you aren’t a serious contender.  You would do better to rely on proper grammar and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Either way, the information you need to get across is likely to be the same: you have to meet your audiences’ goals. If you don’t do that, it doesn’t matter how you say it—nobody will listen.