When referring to blogging, your voice is the personality that comes through in your writing. That voice should mirror your “real” personality (how you speak and interact with people every day), with the rough edges buffed and any grammatical errors removed. Whether you’re writing about laminated wood products for the construction industry, disposable paper products for the healthcare market or about large industrial equipment used to pave roads, your voice should come through in your writing.
But what about “professionalism?” Many business bloggers are reluctant to reveal their true voice, believing that writing for business and talking in real life are two very different things – and when asked to write a post, they adopt a sort of sterile, “appropriate” persona. The result is dry, bulky writing that makes it tough for readers to absorb the story they’re trying to tell.
This post will give those of you uncomfortable with the idea of using your natural voices a few tips for blending personality into business blogging and, as a result, make your writing more engaging.
Do You Talk Differently At Work?
No, you just talk about different things. For an engineer that might mean talking about productivity, compatibility, capabilities, cost-in-use or other topics he or she wouldn’t discuss at home. But you should talk (write) about them in your blog posts very much as you would talk about them at home, using language and structure that’s comfortable for you.
Your voice should be part of your business writing. Don’t believe me? Well, which sounds better to you?
- “After several iterations and extensive discussions with company team members, a preliminary plan was developed and approved by all parties.”
- “After getting good input from everyone on the team, we developed a preliminary plan.”
If you feel the first is more appropriate, I’m going to guess that you’re not confident about your writing (or you work in a field that requires precision in language, like law, or one that’s regulated, like financial services). People who believe they don’t write well often approach a blog writing deciding it’s safest to follow a style similar to #1 above. Maybe they believe it’s going to make them sound smarter, or fear that their natural voice sounds too casual and “everyday.”
Rest assured that your natural voice is just fine – use it. Write like you talk. A good editor or just another set of eyes in the next cubicle can help refine any rough spots that might need work.
How To Unleash Your Voice
The best way to ensure that your voice isn’t disguised in your writing is to first write what you want to say exactly as you’d say it to a friend.
In my first year as a writer I was having trouble explaining something in a brochure I was assigned – something about how a program would benefit people on the sales force. My boss asked, “Well, what are you trying to say?” I said, “I’m trying to say that the program gives the sales team opportunities to meet face-to-face with customers and at the same time rack up points in the XYZ Program, a perk that could push them into first place.” My boss said, “You just said it.”
When you’re stumped by how to write something, ask yourself that question, write down your answer, then polish it as necessary. Refrain from the temptation to add flourish to your writing when it isn’t necessary. Don’t try to build it up by making it more complex, wordier, or by using more formal language than you’d use when you talk. Don’t try to write the way you think you’re supposed to write – write the way that’s most natural to you.
Do You Talk That Way?
I’d like to make a case for the lowly apostrophe. We encounter a number of corporate bloggers who won’t use contractions, thinking it degrades the credibility of the piece somehow. If you, too, are adamant about keeping each and every one of your words separate, read this sentence aloud:
“He is going to Colorado because it is the best place to find out what it is like to ski, and because it will be good for him, that is for sure.”
It’s downright awkward – makes you sound a bit like a robot. If you wouldn’t talk without contractions, don’t write that way. It doesn’t make you sound wiser or more professional; it makes you sound like someone struggling to learn the language.
Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Humor?
If you’re the funny guy in the office (or think you are), please note that while I recommend you reveal your personality in your blogging, I’ll also warn you to keep it at bay – don’t use it as your primary method of making your case. Writing humorously is a skill most people don’t have, and for business blogging it’s not typically appropriate (unless your business is making rubber chickens). Now and again, sure; but don’t make your blog post into your very own stand-up routine.
Along the same lines, slang, euphemisms, colloquialisms, puns, et al, are fine in very small doses, but overdoing any of these makes you seem a little smarmy. I saw this comment in a blog several years ago and keep it in a notebook titled, Things Not To Do:
“Holy moley, people – what are y’all thinkin’? Dude says this is a real bad idea, but no one’s listening ‘cuz you’re all glued to the boob tube!”
(I don’t know about you, but I could never trust this guy.)
Personality adds interest and richness to your writing; it keeps you from boring your readers with sleepy “textbook” writing. Humor is good, too, used sparingly and in the right spots. Just because you’re writing about packaging equipment or supply chain management software doesn’t mean you can’t talk to prospects the way you would during a face-to-face meeting. In fact, it’s much more compelling that way and creates a stronger, more real connection. So go ahead and use your voice.