Writing as Conversation: 7 Do’s and 7 Don’ts to Find Your Voice
In previous posts I’ve mentioned my daily email vocabulary builder, A Word A Day (www.wordsmith.org). It’s free and if you’re blogging and trying to spiff up your writing, I recommend you sign up. A Word A Day also includes a Thought for Today, a wise quote from a variety of sources. This morning’s quote inspired this post.
“Writing, when properly managed, (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.” -Laurence Sterne, novelist and clergyman (1713-1768)
I love the idea of writing as conversation. Straight from the 18th century comes a concept as fresh as though it were communicated for the first time in 2011. Contrary to the sales-y communications of traditional advertising, or the corporate-speak of the last generation (and in some cases the current generation) of company websites, or the overly-nuanced language of press releases, writing in a social, Web 2.0 world calls for a different – and conversational — style.
As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about you and wondering what you might have to contribute on this topic. Also, I’m hoping that you will add to it. We’re all learning new tools and new tactics everyday. So conversing to pool our knowledge, experience and wisdom is a very good thing.
When we communicate verbally, though, it’s easier to have our personalities come through. In addition to the visual cues in-person talk provides, it’s somehow more spontaneous when words spill from our lips and don’t require fingers on keyboards lagging behind a thought process.
Nonetheless, we’re all communicating in writing all the time these days – especially in emails, on blogs and on social media sites. So please allow me to offer a few thoughts about finding an authentic voice for written conversation.
- Do write as though you were speaking.
- Don’t over think the first draft. You can – and should – always go back and edit.
- Do share occasional personal thoughts, perceptions and experiences when they serve to illustrate a point.
- Don’t go overboard with personal info. Learn to walk a line that offers an authentic peek at who you are, while retaining a business-like decorum.
- Do use interesting words and turns of phrase.
- Don’t use industry jargon — and no off-color language.
- Do try for humor at moments that can benefit from a bit of lightening up or to poke fun at yourself for some human foible that anyone can relate to.
- Don’t make jokes at someone’s expense – including your own. Leave sarcasm and snark out of the equation. It’s not attractive.
- Do be polite. Welcome your readers, acknowledge them and thank them.
- Don’t be overly-solicitous; it’s not credible. Invite disagreement.
- Do be a cheerleader for others. Use your content to include their ideas and praise their achievements.
- Don’t promote your own stuff exclusively
- Do listen for what’s important to your audience/s.
- Don’t assume you know what’s important to others. Asking questions is divine.
And so I’ll conclude with this question…
How have you found your conversational writing voice?
Photo by Kris Hoet Under Creative Commons License