Your writing is tight. Authoritative. You’re already speaking directly to one reader. Not using jargon. And yet…
It still sounds like it could’ve been written by anyone in your industry.
That’s because there’s no YOU in it.
And hey, I get it. Your writing chops were probably earned in college or on the job.
You mastered the ways of academia or journalism or even copy writing.
But just because you know to (properly) use a preposition and/or cite your sources, doesn’t mean your voice is clear and compelling.
That’s because you’ve spent years finding every which way to take yourself OUT of the story. To sound professional.
I’m pleading with you to give those mad skills up.
Even if you’re writing blog posts for a big corporation, your readers are HUMAN. And they want to connect with you on a beyond-the-suit-level.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to ease you into the process.
- Know your brand. (And more importantly, it’s personality.) If you’re a solopreneur, your brand should probably reflect YOUR personality. It doesn’t need to be an exact replica of you (online personas are definitely okay), but it should be in alignment with your true values and goals. If you haven’t yet figured out who you are, start here.
- Know your reader. What sort of audience do you want to connect with? Baby boomers? Church ladies? Activists? Go beyond demographics and make sure you understand their language. What kind of words do they use? One of the best ways to grasp these important nuances is to listen.
- Share personal stories. Of course, make sure the snippets you decide to share reflect your brand and personality. Know where you’ll draw the line (e.g., What’s TMI for you?). Your experiences are the most real part of what makes you who you are. Use them!
- Write like you talk. We all have our own idiomatic ways of expressing ourselves. Pay attention to your lexicon. Are there specific words you use a lot? Do you swear like a sailor? Speak in metaphors? Use flowery language? How you use your words in real conversations should be reflected (somehow) in your writing, too.
- Use cultural references. What kind of books do you read? Movies or TV do you watch? Music do you listen to? These are all clues to who you are as a 3-dimensional human. Use them as ways to explore your topic. (Here’s just one of many I’ve done.)
- Be specific (and make friends with your thesaurus). Whenever you get the chance, opt for a word that says exactly what you mean. Not just kinda, but in bold technicolor. So instead of saying ‘good,’ ask yourself how is this good? Is it good like an ice cold beer on a hot summer day? Or is it good like meeting your soulmate after searching for decades? Instead of ‘bad’ is it ‘horrible’? Or is it ‘frightening’ or even ‘godawful’?
- Speak to their senses. Move beyond your reader’s eyeballs. What does the thing you’re talking about sound like? Smell like? Taste like? Feel like? And when you describe these things, use YOUR lexicon and experiences to show us what you mean.
- Find your rhythm. If all your sentences are the same length, your reader’s brain will doze off. Alternate between short and long. Make some paragraphs smaller than others. Throw in some questions. Some parentheticals (they’re a great place for humor). And when in doubt, read your writing out loud to yourself. Where does it sound boring? Where is it repetitive?
- Share your quirks. Nobody’s perfect. And the more you aim for real vs. perfect, the easier it will be to connect with your reader. Talk about a physical challenge you have. Or a bad habit. Or share your favorite weird food or place to hang out. Think about how you’re different from most people you know and include some of that in your next piece.
- Use images that reinforce your brand. Are you a jokester or would you say you’re more edgy? Are you smart and sassy or do you love animals and babies? Pick a category (or two) and then consciously choose images that speak to those same themes. For example, because my brand metaphor them is cooking and food, you’ll find most of my images use these visual references.
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff to remember, right?
My best advice: go through these points and make a list of things you’d like to include. The stories. The words. The descriptions.
Keep your list handy. Build on it when you remember something. This will become the reference guide to your voice.
Then, the next time you write, make your first draft a simple brain dump. Don’t worry about whether or not your writing voice and personality come through.
On a subsequent run through — during a completely different editing session — use your list to see where and how you can inject more of YOU into the text.
I promise your readers will love you for it.