How to find your own tone of voice
Remember the last time you read an article and immediately knew who wrote it without even seeing the author’s name? Or think of the times when you discovered a new magazine or blog – what was it that attracted your attention, that kept you browsing for hours?
Imagine people kept coming back to read your content every day, or ended up having a chat with you via your Support tool just for the sake of having a conversation? Sounds like you’re doing something right if you have that happen!
The way to get there is to develop and discover your own style and tone of voice, home in on it, refine it, and stick to it. Sounds easy, but it can be really hard; especially if writing doesn’t come naturally to you. So let’s talk about 6 steps on how to go about writing with a genuine tone of voice that have helped me in the past and that I keep coming back to every day.
Work on a personal project
When do you write? Is it only at work? Do you enjoy writing in general, or is it something you dread? If your job involves lots of communication, you’d better get used to the idea of making writing a more pleasurable experience.
One way to do this is to work on your own projects. It doesn’t matter if you do that at work or at home, since it will always improve your writing and help you discover your personal style. Start a blog on a topic that excites you, even if it’s just for you and the only person reading it is your mum. If a blog feels like too much of a commitment, try out Instagram (it’s like mini blog posts – and you get to refine your visual style at the same time. Double win!), Twitter, or sharing short posts on Facebook.
Find something that genuinely sparks your interest and that you’d like to learn more about, then use that as a starting point to write more.
Read (a lot)
Without any inspiration, it’s hard to get an idea of what your writing voice could sound like. Sure, you have to implement and actually do the work, but you need to know what tone you relate to, what writing styles resonate with you, and get an idea of what’s possible in order to get yourself started.
Reading also shouldn’t be something you only do when you’re first starting to define your own tone of voice or don’t have anything better to do, it’s something to keep up and come back to continuously. As your style evolves, you’ll need new inspiration and new ideas. The more you read, the more details you pick up that help you learn and develop your own natural writing voice.
Have role models and bookmark your favourite content/authors
This follows on from the previous point. After reading a lot of different content, you’ll find certain authors who you relate to more and whose writing you enjoy. Make it a point to bookmark and save your favourite articles, books, blog posts, etc. so you can always come back to them for inspiration and guidance.
Create a list of your top 5 favourite authors and analyze what they’re doing well. What stands out? Do they use certain expressions over and over again? How do they structure their sentences and paragraphs? What do they sound like? What does their tone of voice remind you of?
Analyze what they’re doing, so you can then try and replicate it – and develop your very own personal style along the way.
Pay attention to the details
Look over some of your older writing – how has your style evolved and changed over time? What elements stayed the same? What do all your articles, emails or support answers have in common? Try to be very specific and pick out the details. The little, seemingly insignificant, minor details – they’re what make up the big picture in the end. Details matter. This comes back to my previous point – certain authors have certain ways of standing out and doing things differently, and it’s often through subtleties that their writing sticks with you and becomes memorable and unique.
Write as you speak
Ever got an email that sounded totally stuck up and more like it came from a robot rather than a human? I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about – those dry, boring corporate emails. And it’s not just emails, it could be any kind of writing. Usually it’s not so much the person that’s dull, it’s just that they’re having difficulty expressing their point in writing in the same way that they would through conversation.
A great way to overcome this and to actually sound like you’re speaking to someone is to record your message or article first, and then transcribe it. Sure, it takes a little more time, but if sounding human in writing is something you’re struggling with, it’s worth doing this a few times until it becomes second nature.
Keep at it
Keep doing the work. Keep writing. Do it every day. Write for your personal blog (or social media platform – see #1), talk to someone over email or support, and if there’s nothing to work on, make it a point to reach out to someone or learn and document something in writing. It’s such a simple, well-known tip, but one we often dismiss – just because it might seem boring. Yes, it takes patience, but practising every day also builds momentum. One day after another quickly adds up, and a month (and then a few months) will soon have passed. I often think of learning anything new in this way: “the time will pass anyway, so I might as well start now”.
What are you struggling with the most when it comes to finding your own writing voice, and what tips have you found useful so far?
I’d love to hear your story – share in the comments below and let’s have a chat!