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Chapter 03 : RC & Verbal Ability > Tone of the
In this article, the first of two on this topic, we shall examine
a common type of question seen across MBA entrance exams: a question
that asks you to choose the most appropriate tone of the passage.
What is meant by ‘tone’?
Firstly, what is really meant by tone?
The ‘tone’ refers to the feelings or emotions expressed by the author towards an issue. It could also encompass his style of writing. What sentiment does the author express towards the subject? That is the tone.
An example would better reflect what I am attempting to state. Consider a title such as ‘The dismal state of Indian hockey’. Now how does such a title express the author’s tone? The answer is that through the usage of the adjective ‘dismal’ here, the author’s sentiment towards the subject of hockey is also conveyed to the reader. We know how the author feels.
Now let us take up some examples of tones and discuss how you can recognize these. We shall discuss some important tones that you could appear as answer options in the entrance exams.
Descriptive or Informative:
This tone is appropriate when the author has given a lot of figures, facts or data in the passage. The author’ purpose of writing the passage/ article was to increase the reader’s knowledge of the given issue or subject. Hence a lot of details are given.
A characteristic of passages with a descriptive/ informative tone is therefore the presence of data, facts etc and the relative absence of opinions.
Examples of passages where a descriptive/ informative tone is used:
• Passages dealing with events in history: giving details of some battle, dates, information about the rule of some civilization, king etc
• Passages dealing with some technology: providing details about some gadget, describing the features of some instrument etc
• Information about some building, landmark, historical place etc. For example, the passage may describe the Qutab Minar, giving information about when it was built, who built it, the material used for its construction etc.
This is typically used for passages when the author expresses his views on some issues and takes a stand-is this person or issue right or wrong? Is this good or bad? Is someone intelligent or dumb? These are all judgements.
Therefore the characteristic of such a tone is the presence of opinions or the author’s perception/ views on a person, thing or issue.
Examples of passages where a judgemental tone is used:
• An expert giving his verdict on some issue-could be an automobile expert speaking about a car and providing his opinion on what is good or bad about the new vehicle, or a connoisseur of food providing his opinion about a dish, for example
• A follower or fan speaking about an issue close to his heart. For example, someone writing about a particular player
This is quite an important tone, for there are several passages that appear in B-school entrance exams where this tone is appropriate as an answer choice. What is the characteristic of such a tone?
The characteristic of an analytical tone is the presence of reasons or logic/ justifications to support something.
In such passages, the author tries to analyze an issue, presenting the pros and cons, or compares two or more things and tells you why he feels something is better etc.
Examples of passages where an analytical tone is used:
• An author stating that he feels something could happen in the future and providing reasons to justify why he feels in that manner
• An analysis of some event in the past-reasons given to explain a certain event, action etc. For example, the author could analyze why India won the last cricket match etc.
• The author comparing two or more things and justifying why he feels something is better
• Passages in which the pros and cons of a certain action are weighed. For example, should Company A acquire Company B? The decision needs to be analyzed and reasons given both for and against the issue.
The next article shall continue with the ‘tone of the passage’ and discuss certain other tones which often appear in the passages given in various B-school entrance exams.
- SIDHARTH BALAKRISHNA
Sidharth Balakrishna is an author and alumnus of IIM Calcutta. He is an MBA preparation expert and has been involved in MBA coaching for more than six years.
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