Reading Comprehension: Identifying author's tone

Every author adopts a certain attitude towards the issue he is talking about. Some wish to highlight the facts about a matter (thereby adopting a ‘factual’ tone); some wish to explore the pros and cons of a decision (thereby adopting a ‘critical’ tone); some wish to explore each and every facet, cause, effect and so on with regards to a certain topic (thereby adopting an ‘analytical’ tone); some wish to narrate an instance from their life (thereby adopting a ‘sentimental/narrative’ tone); some wish to express their emotions, happy or sad (thereby adopting ‘emotional/happy/grief-stricken’ tones).
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These different reasons/methods of expressing themselves actually become the tone of the author. Now that you have a basic understanding of tones, the next step is: how do you identify the author’s tone.
Things to consider while identifying tone of the author
1. Identify the nature of the passage:
The first classification for the passage is that you understand whether the passage is highlighting facts or does it reflect the opinions of the author. This is an important classification. Classify all tones that you know of into these two categories. For example, the objective tone is a factual one, and criticizing someone is only possible with the help of opinions.
2. Identify passage sentiment:
The second thing that you need to do is understand the sentiment of the passage i.e. whether the passage can be classified as:
  • Positive: the author is appreciating something
  • Negative: the author is criticizing something
  • Neutral: the passage does not fall into any of the above categories
Classify all tones that you know of into these three categories. For example: being appreciative reflects a positive approach, being sarcastic reflects a negative approach and being objective is neutral in nature.
3. Identify the adjectives/adverbs used in the passage:
Make a mental note of the language used by the author, and what kind of adjectives he is using. Adjectives reflect the mood and emotions of the author.
4. Make a note of conflicting attitudes
Understand and identify where the author changes his attitude and starts to move along different lines. It is important to understand these mood changes, and from this understanding, try to infer the most dominant sentiment in the passage. A common mistake committed by students is that they focus on one particular sentiment only, whereas the author has displayed multiple ones in the passage. Remember, you need to pick the sentiment which dominates the passage and co-related with the central idea of the passage.
5. Make a list of all relevant adjectives you discover: make your own ‘tone’ list
It is easy to find a list of common RC tones but you are advised to make your own list of tones, and put in all the relevant adjectives that you discover in tests, mocks and so on. Having your own list will gel with your vocabulary levels and ensure that all bases are covered for you.
How do we reach at the final answer?
  1. Identify the nature of the passage (facts or opinion), and eliminate the options that do not match with your analysis.
  2. Identify the passage sentiment and again eliminate options that do not match with your analysis.
  3. Identify the main idea of the passage, and co-relate it with the tone of the passage (there should be synergy between the two).
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  5. Keep 3 and 4 in mind while marking your answer.
  6. Also, you should try to label the tone of the passage in your own words, and see which one co-relates with the author of the passage.
  7. Eliminate options. Do not select an answer, always eliminate options and be sure why you are rejecting a particular option.
The above form some of the basic things that you should be doing for a Reading Comprehension tone question. Using these tips and strategies is surely going to help you master this question type.
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