Voice can give a blogger a serious edge. Your unique voice can set you apart from the competition, form a foundation for your brand, engender audience loyalty, and more. If you find it difficult to retain readers, and you’re confident of the quality and accuracy of the content you provide, you may need to work on your voice.
What is Voice?
Voice is the tone in which you present content. Your blog’s overall tone is also affected by visual elements like colours and fonts, but voice is a critical element in the tone of your content.
If a message is what we say, then voice is the way we express what we say. Pace, rhythm, turns of phrase, idioms — even the way you use punctuation — all contribute to the voice of your blog. Unless you’re a die-hard writing buff, it probably won’t pay you to get too hung up on grammar or the finer points of semicolon usage. Instead, focus first on assessing your posts in terms of how they sound overall.
First, choose a word that best reflects how you want to sound — “friendly” or “authoritative” or “experienced”, for example. Then assess a cross-section of your posts, scoring each on how well you feel it meets that requirement. Voice is strongest when it’s consistent, so also look at elements like tags and category labels, email autoresponders, error pages, and so on, to see how well they reflect your desired tone of voice.
This process will probably let you identify some inconsistencies that dilute the voice of your blog — and make it more difficult for your audience to know what they can expect, or to identify with your blog’s personality.
For many of us, it can be difficult to work out exactly what makes one post sound better — friendlier, more authoritative, or whatever — than another. All we know is that this post sounds friendly and relaxed, while that one is flat, and this other one comes across as a bit of a rant.
The good news is that you can take a number of steps to make the voice of your posts more consistent.
1. Picture your audience.
If you want your blog to sound friendly, you might imagine a good friend who’s in your target audience each time you write a blog post. It might sound odd, but holding a clear picture of the person you’re writing for in your mind while you write can have a significant impact on the tone of your content.
2. Watch your mood.
With experience, you’ll learn to churn out content on demand, in a consistent voice. But while you’re still getting a handle on your blog’s voice, it can be a good idea to try to write when you’re in a good frame of mind. Not just a positive frame of mind, but one that reflects your respect for your readership and your enthusiasm for your blog topic.
We all have moments when we’d rather be doing something other than writing a post for our blogs; try not to write at those times, at least while you’re finding your voice. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing, that’ll come across in your post’s tone.
3. Separate writing from publishing.
Try to avoid publishing posts as you write them. Instead, save the post and review it later, when you’re in a different frame of mind. This way, even if you can’t avoid writing posts in varying moods, you’ll be able to cast an objective eye over your posts, and to edit and tweak them in ways that reinforce the tone you’re aiming for.
Don’t be afraid to edit your posts if you don’t feel they’re couched in the right tone of voice. You might find that a quick review, with fresh eyes — and the implementation of a few well-chosen tweaks — prior to publishing makes all the difference to the tone of your posts.
4. Create a style guide.
A style guide — a set of rules for grammar, spelling and expression — can help you to automate elements of your blog’s voice.
If you can identify, by looking critically at your blog, and blogs you like the tone of, elements that detract from your tone, you can list them in your style guide. Over time, you’ll compile a list of rules that can act as a sort of template that you can apply to every post your write.
“Have I used friendly text for links, rather than simply pasting the URL straight into the body copy of my post?” you’ll ask yourself. “Have I mentioned the position of every individual I’ve quoted in this article, to show the quality of my research and my respect for my industry peers?”
Using your style guide as a checklist on which to assess your posts can help to ensure that the tone of your blog remains consistent.
5. Consider tactics that may dilute your voice.
Some blogging tactics may actually serve to dilute your blog’s voice. Guest bloggers, for example, probably won’t write the way you do, and may jar with readers’ expectations of your blog’s voice. Similarly, being paid to write a post in which you promote a product can alter your tone of voice in subtle ways. You may even write about certain topics within your chosen field in a way that doesn’t reflect the tone of your blog.
Before you adopt a new tactic on your blog, consider what it might mean for your blog’s voice. Consistency of voice is crucial when it comes to establishing trust and loyalty among your readership, so it pays — in the short- and long-term — to weigh up the pros and cons of each new tactic before you adopt it.
Glen Stansbery outlined some handy tactics that can actively help to enhance your blog’s voice, but again, use these with discretion and caution. Giving various approaches an open-minded try before you set your heart on adopting them is a good modus operandi.
Have you established a strong voice for your blog? What advice can you share?
About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years' experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.