And help people feel better

A monitor line showing love for the NHS and its tone of voice
When the NHS uses the right tone of voice everything feels better


When she was younger my daughter had a serious health scare. Although it was a false alarm, so physically she was fine, it left her with an extreme fear of doctors and hospitals.

We’re having to face this fear now as my lovely girl was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) last year. Scoliosis isn’t life threatening but can cause pain, which for her it does. And if her curve continues to grow she may eventually need surgery.

So the past few months have been tough. We’ve been in a cycle of appointments, X-rays, scans and referrals, until we finally landed with the consultant in April.

And all the while my brave daughter has been learning to live with a condition that is changing how she looks and her understanding of who she is.

But one thing has made it easier.


(Actually two things, the other being architecture. But that’s another story.)

What the right tone of voice will do

The right words written in the right tone of voice won’t just help you sell more. They can change how people think, feel and act.

Take this sign from one of the many waiting rooms we’ve been in recently.

‘If you’ve been waiting for more than 30 minutes without an explanation please speak to someone at the reception desk.’

I read this while we were waiting for my daughter to have an MRI scan. It was early morning and she was the youngest person there by about 40 years. Understandably, she was scared and I was anxious.

But this simple sign offered us some reassurance.

It kept a lid on how long we were likely to have to wait.

It let us know that someone would tell us if we had to wait longer and why.

It told us what to do if this didn’t happen.

And it said please.

This one sentence made waiting easier, because of its polite and helpful tone of voice.

I felt as though we were acknowledged. That someone recognised waiting could be difficult and wanted to make it as easy for us as possible.

Reading it, I heard them talking to us and felt reassured – about the waiting if not the scan.

Imagine if the sign hadn’t been up and we were just waiting.

In anxious silence.

Not just the right tone of voice, a consistent tone of voice

In the end it wasn’t long before the radiographer ushered us through the double doors to where the scanning rooms are.

I had to wait again here while my brave girl went in for her scan. This was harder than before as my instinct was to be with her.

But again, some words helped me feel better.

First was this sign.

“We aim to see you within 30 minutes of your appointment time.

However, please be aware that this is a busy acute hospital and both scanners deal with emergency patients on a daily basis.

Thank you for your understanding.”

Again, the clear mention of 30 minutes.

Another polite please.

A recognition that our appointment wasn’t an emergency, which made me glad, however much I wished we weren’t there.

And that clever last line that assumed I was understanding. Humans are social creatures and strongly influenced by others. So if I wasn’t feeling understanding before, I was likely to be once I’d read that line.

You think I’m understanding? That’s nice. And it’s OK, I do understand why we might have to wait.

There was also some information about when CT and MRI scans are used, how safe they are, what happens during a scan and what happens afterwards.

It was all written in easy to read and understand plain English. In an easy and friendly tone of voice.

It was interesting, relevant and helpful. It gave me something to do. It was another thing I found reassuring.

Tone of voice means how you speak as well as how you write

After my daughter had been in the scanning room for about ten minutes and I’d read all the information on the walls at least twice, the radiographer popped out to let me know she was OK.

That meant a lot. I felt included. I knew what was going on. I felt less anxious.

And then a few minutes later the radiographer popped out again to say she’d be about five minutes more.

Hospital visits can be awful for patients. But they can be hard for the people who go with them too. You want to make it better, to take away all the pain and worry, but you can’t. All you can do is be there, offering what reassurance you can while trying to keep a lid on your own feelings.

So the relevant, easy to understand information, and the friendly updates from the radiographer – all those well-thought-out words and friendly tone – made a difficult experience a lot easier.

The only exception was the clock.

It was made by niceday.

That’s not even funny.

A big hand for the NHS

People can be quick to knock the NHS. Often unfairly. I’d like to redress the balance a little. So far, from our GP right through to the consultant, every receptionist, nurse, radiographer and doctor we’ve seen has been brilliant.

We’ve never had to wait too long between appointments. We’ve never had to wait too long at appointments. Everyone we’ve seen has been friendly, helpful and reassuring.

I think – I hope – it’s helped my daughter see the NHS as a place that helps and heals rather than as a place to be feared.

Largely, that has been down to words and the tone of voice they’ve been wrapped up in.

How you can apply this to your business

Everything I’ve written about here you can use in your own business. Because the right words, used in the right way at the right time can make a big difference.

Where you can, be open with your information. Write in a way that is easy to read and easy to understand.

Keep in touch with your customers. Let them know how their project is progressing. Ask how they are? Share some relevant news. Anything that helps to build and maintain a connection will help.

And think about how the tone of voice you use could make people feel.

Because we all want to make people feel better, don’t we?



Hello. I’m Sarah Russell, a freelance copywriter from near Cardiff in the UK.

I can take away your anxiety about writing and help you feel better about words and how you use them.

Call me on: 01873 776 153

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