How to use tone effectively in PSLE English Composition?

The effective use of tone in PSLE English composition is a crucial aspect of conveying your intended message and connecting with your readers. Being able to manipulate tone demonstrates a strong understanding of the language and can greatly enhance the quality of your writing. Here’s a guide to understanding and effectively using tone in your PSLE English Composition.

Understanding the Concept of Tone

Tone refers to the writer’s attitude towards the subject and the readers. It’s often conveyed through word choice, sentence structure, and the viewpoint from which the writer chooses to present information. Tone can be formal, informal, serious, humorous, sarcastic, sad, and so on, depending on what the writer aims to convey. Understanding tone is part of the Language Use and Comprehension component of the SEAB MOE English syllabus.

Recognising the Importance of Tone

Tone helps to set the mood of your composition. It can influence how readers perceive your characters, plot, and the overall message of your story. A well-chosen tone can make your writing more engaging and relatable.

Using Tone Effectively in Your Composition

1. Consider Your Audience and Purpose

Firstly, you need to consider who you are writing for (your audience) and why you are writing (your purpose). These two factors greatly influence the tone you should adopt. For example, if you’re writing a formal letter, your tone should be formal and respectful. On the other hand, if you’re writing a story aimed at young children, a playful and simple tone would be more appropriate.

2. Choose Your Words Carefully

Your choice of words (diction) is the primary way of establishing tone. For instance, using complex, sophisticated vocabulary creates a formal and serious tone, while slang and colloquial expressions create an informal and casual tone.

3. Utilize Punctuation and Sentence Structure

Punctuation marks and sentence structure can also contribute to the tone. Exclamation marks can convey excitement or urgency, while long, complex sentences might establish a formal or serious tone.

4. Stay Consistent

Once you’ve chosen a tone, be consistent with it throughout your composition. A sudden or unexplained change in tone can confuse your readers.

5. Practice Reading Aloud

Reading your composition aloud can help you better understand the tone of your writing. If it doesn’t sound right or it doesn’t convey the emotion you intended, you may need to revise your work.

6. Regularly Practice Writing

Like any other skill, improving your ability to use tone effectively requires regular practice. Write compositions regularly and experiment with different tones.

Examples of usage of Tone

Story 1: “Ah, the bustling city of Singapore! Skyscrapers touching the blue, a medley of cultures and their cuisines, and the unparalleled beauty of the night skyline. There I was, filled with anticipation and excitement, exploring every corner of this vibrant city.”

Story 2: “Singapore, an urban jungle with buildings that scrape the sky. A city where cultures collide in every corner, yet united in diversity. In the midst of this city’s relentless buzz, there I was – a lone traveler, finding my way around the city’s complex urban labyrinth.”

These two passages describe the same situation – the narrator arriving in Singapore and exploring the city. However, the tone of each passage varies significantly.

In Story 1, the tone is enthusiastic and lively. Words such as ‘bustling’, ‘touching the blue’, ‘medley’, ‘unparalleled beauty’, ‘anticipation’, and ‘excitement’ all contribute to an upbeat and vibrant tone. This tone suggests that the narrator is highly eager and thrilled to be in Singapore, eager to experience everything the city has to offer.

In contrast, Story 2 takes on a more formal and somewhat introspective tone. Phrases like ‘urban jungle’, ‘scrape the sky’, ‘cultures collide’, ‘relentless buzz’, ‘lone traveler’, and ‘urban labyrinth’ create a more serious and reflective mood. While it’s clear that the narrator is still interested in exploring the city, the tone suggests they’re doing so in a more thoughtful and perhaps even overwhelmed manner. The narrator is not just sightseeing, but also contemplating the complexities and contradictions of urban life.

Thus, by varying word choice, sentence structure, and viewpoint, the writer can convey different attitudes and emotions about the same situation, effectively altering the tone of the writing. This understanding of tone can enhance students’ English compositions in the PSLE examination, enabling them to create more engaging and impactful narratives.


Remember, in the PSLE English examination, you are given 50 minutes for the composition section. Utilise this time well to plan and review your composition, ensuring that your tone is suitable and consistent.

Tone is an essential tool in English composition, one that adds depth and life to your writing. By understanding and effectively manipulating tone, you can create more compelling and engaging compositions, potentially improving your PSLE English grades.

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