Quit giving me garbage! 5 steps to fine-tune your writing voice
I've been reading a lot of blog posts over the weekend, including several that discussed the importance of voice and tone. Voice is a term used in literature to describe the writing style of an author. John Steinbeck's writing sounds nothing like J.K. Rowling, for example. Each uses language very differently.
The general consensus among blog writers today is that you should adjust your voice to your audience, or, as some like to say, the persona you are writing for. I think we instinctively do that in much of our writing without being formally trained. For example, most people would not write a letter to their boss or to their parish priest and use the same tone as when they write to their cousin in the army.
We're also reminded – rightly so – to drop the business jargon and write conversationally. No one likes to pour through corporate gobbledygook. I'm sick of optimizing my end-to-end solution to obtain granularity of purpose in order to leverage the value-add of blah, blah, blah. Somebody save me!
So, yes, I'm all for adopting an informal tone. I'm even perfectly okay with using slang and a bit of profanity, if necessary. But here's where I draw the line: Informal writing is not the same as sloppy writing. Casual writing is not the same as careless writing.
At the risk of offending anyone, I'm here to tell you that far too much of what I read online falls somewhere between garbage and crap. Once my crap detector goes off, I'm gone – off your blog, off your site and out of your world. I just refuse to invest my time reading the best thinking of someone who couldn't master 6th-grade English. If English is your second language, I'll give you a huge break. Otherwise, I expect to find a minimum proficiency with the language.
What kills me is that I know you're capable of doing better. I'm not asking everyone to be an English teacher. I'm very forgiving with mistakes here and there, and I know I make plenty of them myself. But being sloppy is unprofessional, period.
The GREAT news is that fixing up your writing is not all that difficult or time-consuming. In fact, here are just five steps you can take that will make you a much more competent and confident writer.
1. If you have not already done so, go buy Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. This easy-to-read 85-page book will improve your writing immediately. I do not know a single writer who has not read every word of this book, often several times. It's that good.
2. Re-read every blog post aloud and then re-write it. The best writing is re-writing. I promise you that if you just read it through once, you'll find clunky sentences to fix and a couple misspellings. It will take you less than five minutes to catch some obvious gaffes, and you'll come off much better.
3. Use the spell check feature, but keep in mind that this is no substitute for #2 above. You will, however, save yourself some embarrassment.
4. If you just cannot bring yourself to review your own writing, get someone to do it for you. Good writers are not afraid of being edited. A fresh pair of eyes can often spot a mistake that you overlooked.
5. Consider taking a writing class to improve your skill. Never underestimate how important your communication skills are. If you need help, go ahead and get it. You'll feel so much more confident every time you sit down to write.
Creating remarkable content in the form of blog posts, white papers, web pages, eBooks and more is a cornerstone of inbound marketing. Why not do it well? Your reputation requires your best effort.
Disagree with me? Let me know in the comments box below. I welcome your feedback.
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