tone of RC passage

Tones of the Passages in Reading Comprehension for CAT Exam

Tones of the Passages in Reading Comprehension for CAT Exam
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How to identify author’s tone or tone of the RC passage?

Look for the author’s participation

Authors write things for a variety of reasons. They may just write to report, simply putting down what they take to be the facts, giving no indication of their own feelings, either positive or negative, about those facts. Or they may set down what someone else has reported as fact, without giving any indication of how that person feels about them or how they themselves feel about them.

But often authors write with other purposes in mind. For example, they may write to persuade the reader of the merits of some position, in which case they typically write in such a way that the reader can tell that they have positive feelings with respect to that position.

By contrast, they may write to warn the reader that a view has no merit, in which case they often make evaluative comments that allow the reader to infer what their attitude toward the matter is. Thus, one feature of a text that careful readers pay attention to is whether the author, by taking a certain tone, or by certain word choices, reveals any attitude other than bland neutrality toward the material he or she is presenting.

Also of interest is whether any of the people mentioned by the author in the passage are presented as having any particular attitude toward anything that figures in the passage. These things are potentially important in evaluating what has been read. For example, if an author’s attitude is one of boundless enthusiasm, a careful reader might take what that author says with a grain of salt.

Where to find the author’s tone?

In the CAT Reading Comprehension section, you will encounter questions that ask directly about the author’s attitude or the author’s tone, or the attitude of people that the author discusses. Another kind of question may ask you to consider words or phrases that appear in the passage and to identify those that indicate the attitude of the author, or of people mentioned in the passage, toward some specific thing that is discussed in the passage.

When you are dealing with a question that asks directly about attitude, you should assess the passage with an eye to whether it contains indicators of tone. For example, sometimes an initially positive tone is tempered later by an expression of doubts; or an initially rather dismissive tone might be moderated later by a grudging admission of something worthwhile.

The description of the author’s attitude overall will reflect this and you should choose among the answer choices accordingly. An example will illustrate this point.

Tone of RC passage example:

Question: The attitude of the author of the passage toward the book “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” is best described as one of

  1. qualified approbation
  2. implied skepticism
  3. pointed criticism
  4. fervent advocacy

The hint to the right answer is given in the last paragraph of the passage:

Martin Luther King, Jr., testified to the profound effect of “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” on the civil rights movement by praising the book and quoting it frequently.

The lines above have abundant evidence of the author’s attitude toward the book “The Strange Career of Jim Crow”. Based on this evidence, we can shortlist option A, which suggests a positive attitude.

Thus we see that questions on the tone of the passage or the author can be answered by finding evidence or reference in the passage that suggests or gives an explicit hint at the right answer.

List of Tones for RC Passages

Some of the most common types of RC tones that I have come across are listed in the table below:

Possible tone Meaning of the word
Acerbic Harsh/ severe; bitter
Aggressive Forceful; tending towards unprovoked offensiveness
Angry/indignant
Apathetic Emotionless; not interested/ concerned; indifferent; unresponsive
Apologetic Expressing remorse, regret, sorrow for having failed, injured, insulted or wronged another
Belligerent Aggressively hostile; bellicose
Biased Favouring one thing/person/group over another for personal reasons.
Caustic Biting; acerbic
Commiserating Feeling/ expressing sorrow for; empathizing with; pity
Condescending Patronizing; showing/implying patronising descent from dignity/ superiority
Contemptuous Expressing contempt/ disdain
Cynical displaying a belief that people are always self-seeking and never altruistic in their actions
Derisive Unkind and displaying contempt
Disparaging Speak slightingly; depreciating; belittling
Dogmatic Asserting opinions in an arrogant manner; imperious; dictatorial
Emotional Easily affected by feelings actuated by experiencing love, hate, fear and the like
Ethical Dealing with principles of morality; honest; righteous
Euphemistic Substitution of mild, indirect or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh or blunt
Grandiose More complicated/ elaborated than necessary; pompous
Humanistic Evincing keen interest in human affairs, nature, welfare, values
Humourous Funny and amusing
Introspective Consider one’s own internal state of feelings
Incendiary Causing strong feelings
Laudatory Praising; extolling; applauding
Motivating Impelling; inciting
Obsequious Fawning; showing servile complaisance; flattering; deferent
Pedestrian Lacking vitality, imagination, distinction
Populist Egalitarian; pertaining to the characteristics of common people/ working class
Provocative Inciting; stimulating; irritating; vexing
Romantic Fanciful; impractical; unrealistic; extravagant; exaggerated
Sarcastic Harsh, bitter derision; taunting; sneering; cutting remarks
Satirical Ironical; taunting; human folly held up to scorn/ derision/ ridicule
Speculative Theoretical rather than practical; thoughtful; reflective; hypothetical
Technical Using terminology or treating subject matter in a manner peculiar to a particular field, as a writer or a book
Vitriolic Full of anger and hatred
Vituperative Cruel and angry criticism

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