Menu

Perfect Pitch: Developing Your Blogging Voice

Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti: think what you might of the music they each performed, there is one thing…

Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti: think what you might of the music they each performed, there is one thing that unites these (late) great singers. The moment they opened their mouths, you knew it was them. Their voice had that specific, unmistakable timbre that — above all else — said “it’s me.”

It might be trickier for writers to achieve such a level of immediate recognizability, but not impossible. The astringent wit of Dorothy Parker, the mad exuberance of a Vladimir Nabokov line, or even the winning simplicity of recent Nobel laureate Alice Munro all bear an invisible trademark — they each have a voice all their own.

While we can’t guarantee any fancy literary awards for all of you just yet, bloggers can, and should, have a distinct voice, too. And we’re here to help you develop it, whether you’re visiting from Zero to Hero or are a blogging old-timer.

For all of you who occasionally feel like you haven’t yet found your voice: the good news is that you already have one. Blogging might be the most verbal-friendly writing genre that ever existed. Nobody frowns at colloquialisms, you’re allowed to swear (if you wish), and the grammar police, while not disbanded, is clearly more lenient here than in your composition classes. Using your speaking voice should be every blogger’s starting point.

Amplify what you have

  • If you listen to the way you tell stories, gossip, and share your opinion in spoken conversations, you’re bound to discover what makes your voice unique. Try to zone in on those words and phrases you find yourself using frequently, and try to recreate a similar tone in your writing. Trace the outlines of your speaking rhythm: do you talk in fully punctuated paragraphs, or in ever-shifting word clouds? Do you ask a lot of questions, or tend to suspend your sentences in ellipses? Let your style be guided by whatever it is that already defines the way you express yourself.

Let your style be guided by whatever it is that already defines the way you express yourself.

  • When you know what makes you tick as a speaker (record yourself if you must), you’ll instinctively know when your writing is off — whether a word is too thesaurus-y, a phrase too slang-y, or an entire post too jargon-y. None of your readers visit your blog because of your acrobatic command of arcane grammar rules. They’re there to hear you at your most natural and unadorned — if that means fancy conditional sentences, then sure. Exclamation marks? Go for it! An occasional ALL CAPS? SO. BE. IT.

Don’t shy away from being an echo

    • Staying true to our own voices doesn’t mean we should seal our ears to those around us. While it’s tempting to think that we express ourselves in entirely unique ways, we all borrow, intentionally or not, from those whose writing (or singing, or acting, or speaking) inspires us. Instead of trying to erase all these foreign elements in your voice, embrace them. Analyze them. Is your aunt the best joke-teller you know? Try and crack the secret to her timing. Did your history professor grab your attention every single class? Think of the way he structured his narratives.

If there’s a novelist, an essayist, or a blogger you really respect, spend some time reading his or her work before sitting down to write your own post.

  • Have you ever spoken to someone whose accent or vocabulary was significantly different than yours, only to find yourself emulating it by the end of the conversation? We do this all the time without even noticing — it’s our way of finding common ground with our conversation partners. Something similar can happen to us when we write.

If there’s a novelist, an essayist, or a blogger you really respect, spend some time reading his or her work before sitting down to write your own post. It’s a great way to tune your brain to the rhythms and tics you love, without the counterproductive step of copying someone else’s style intentionally.

Help your readers listen — with their eyes

Every analogy has its limits. In this case, while we may speak about voice and tone, the end product — a blog post — is still written. Your audience will consume it visually via a screen. You can still help your readers hear that authentic ring of your voice by making your posts easy on their eyes.

  • Don’t forget punctuation, even if it’s as little as periods and commas.
  • You may speak in torrents, but should avoid huge blocks of text: start a new paragraph every once in a while.
  • Find ways to create emphasis subtly: an unexpected word in italics, or a single sentence in its own line.
  • Use white space productively: it can act as the equivalent of a meaningful silence.

Ensure that you’re heard by making your words as clear and visible as they possibly can be.

Do you use a consistent tone on your blog, or vary it depending on the post at hand? What tricks have you used to channel your voice into your blog? Your words of wisdom are very welcome!

Show Comments

78 Comments

Comments are closed.

Close Comments

Comments

  1. I especially appreciate these tips. I find that blogging now requires a certain style that is different than the old 5 paragraphs—first intro, three are the body of the subject, and then a concluding paragraph. It also goes against the traditional 5 sentence per paragraph rule. It’s been fun for me to experiment with the tips you give. Of particular, I’ve used the white space concept, the single sentence, and the italics or bold. I’ve also kept paragraphs intentionally shorter.
    Of note: I took a writing class a couple years ago and my teacher was a traditionalist. She was horrified when she read my blog. I tried to tell her blog writing followed a different format. She is one of those who used red marks lavishly. Had it not been on the computer my words would have been slashed and dashed everywhere. About a year later, she contacted me for more information on WordPress. I’m not sure where she went with that information. I was too afraid to ask! But hopefully, she was more open to it. :-)

    Like

      1. I will catch up with her some time. She referred me to a blogspot blog she liked and felt was done the correct way. I have another blog (pre-WordPress) at blogspot and the support and community aspect is nil. Hopefully she is converted.

        Like

  2. I’m a shy quiet person but I’ve inadvertently caught attention when I’ve muttered something under my breath, usually sarcastic or related to an “inside” joke. To try to catch that in my writing, I put those side mutterings in brackets, and it seems to work. I’ve been told I’m funny even when I am not trying to be. :-)

    Like

    1. I like your brackets idea — in general, punctuation and typography can convey a lot more than we often give them credit for (though I admit to sometimes abusing colons and dashes).

      Like

  3. I love these tips, even now after a year or two of blogging I’m still trying to learn new things, in the way I compose my poems and in general writing. Thank you for this :)

    Like

  4. I like to use line breaks to give the reader a break from heavy reading, posts where the scroll bar is less than an inch long. I use font size to emphasize little “catch phrases” that stick with them and make reading longer text easier. I also used color in my “manifesto” http://sacredhereandnow.wordpress.com/manifesto/ to try and bring energy to the topic. What do you think? Is it still too much text for a web page? I have a fairly articulate and descriptive writing style that isn’t as concise as some. I usually go through a lot of editing before I post something. Feel free to leave comments on my blog if you find unhelpful info in a post!

    Like

  5. I express myself infinitely better when typing so I love seeing my personality come out on the screen. As far as I can tell, I am a sarcastic person with a wide vocabulary that enjoys an awkward simile from time to time just because. I have a butt-ton of phrases that I use on the regular in my speech as well and these worm their way in my writing.
    One this I’m working on is the aesthetics of my writing. Do I make everything a new paragraph? Should I bold and Italicize more often? Is my excessive use of punctuation and good thing or a bad thing??
    So that’s what’s up with me currently.

    Like

  6. I have a bad habit of either detaching myself when writing a more casual post or finessing it till it could be in a museum. I have to tell myself I’m not writing for a newspaper. After I write, I read it out loud. If it sounds like I’m talking to a friend of family member then I know my voice came cross.

    Like

  7. Having just started my own blog, these tips are great. I love reading articles with tips on how to promote your voice and what makes or breaks an article. Thanks for the tips.
    MLV

    Like

  8. When I started my blog a year and a half ago I had to work hard to find my blogging voice. I had done a lot of technical, academic writing plus had kept a journal. Neither seemed right, but I soon found ways to combine them. I have also taken note of posts by others where I leave half way through because the writing is driving my nuts. Although this is obviously a personal preference kind of thing, it helps me understand what I want my blogging voice to sound like. I now can go back in my archives and find those posts that I still enjoy reading. It feels great to enjoy my own writing, both content and style. I guess I have found my voice.

    Like

  9. Loving these tips. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve been concerned about not finding my voice, so much as curious about solidifying it. I know that I am quite distinctive in how I speak, and have had no internal resistance in converting this to my written work. These tips are very helpful in suggesting way to strengthen my voice as a learn and grow as a writer. As always, I love the reminders to read, read, read!

    Like

  10. I completely resonate with the concept of emulating the voice of others. When I read old English literature, I wind up talking like that. I once spent a year with a British roommate and picked up the accent. There are a few bloggers that I follow that have a beautiful voice, and if I read them first, I do wind up writing like that. But if I don’t read them beforehand, I don’t. So, I feel as if each post sounds different from the other depending on who I’ve been reading lately. I’m unsure how to avoid that…

    Like

  11. Thank you for the tips, I found it really interesting as it’s something I hadn’t thought of too much . I suppose I try not to over-think my posts and write naturally, with everything as an extension of the way I talk and the stupid things I discuss with the people closest to me.

    Like

  12. It hadn’t really occurred to me that I write in a similar voice to my speaking voice. Intriguing to think this through. I do use a lot of dashes when I write – I know it’s partly laziness (did I need a colon or semi-colon?), but maybe it’s also because it reflects how I talk, making links as I jump from topic to topic. I shall be trying to notice dashes in my speech now.

    I also know I over-use brackets. Hmm. I suspect that I do that when I talk too, and confuse people… (I love ellipses too.) Thank you for some good food for thought.

    Like

    1. Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s addicted to the dashes and brackets. So many side thoughts so little time to organize them so pop them in where they happen.

      Like

  13. I love the help you give to bloggers. I suspect the thing that ties my blogs together is the fact that my photographs are just amateur snaps. I know I can’t compete with the professionals so I don’t try…and I try to keep my posts short. From experience I know people aren’t too keen on reading long posts

    Like

  14. An exceptional article Ben! My intent as a writer/blogger is to speak authentically, and as naturally as possible. I use a personable tone as I write, hopefully – welcoming as well. It varies per post. It has taken time and numerous lessons – learning to trust/respect my writing voice. I believe as I continue to express the “heart” of my offerings (holistic wellness), it can only get better. The switch to “wordpress” is nice…welcoming.

    Best,

    Storm

    Like

  15. Fabulous post. I had someone tell me once that I wrote just like I talked and they meant it as a compliment. I think you just have to find a rhythm of what works. Definitely sharing your post today with others! Thanks!

    Like

    1. Oops! A wee button failure there! Thank you for the post. I have just started my journey on this website and was wondering (not worrying) how my prose would be perceived. It’s encouraging to know that transferring the style of my vocal delivery onto the screen is a good way to go. Stick with what I know, so to speak!

      Like