The world of blogging is a wonderful place, filled with DIY pallet tables, glitter, and an endless supply of creativity. That being said, it can also feel a bit crowded at times. With so many imaginative, passionate bloggers out there, trying to stand out among the masses can often feel like an exercise in futility.
If you want to distinguish yourself as a blogger, one of the best ways is by taking special care of the written content you produce, or more specifically, developing a unique blogging voice. Have you ever read a blog post that made you feel like you could be best friends with the author? That, my friends, is voice. It’s the tone a blog has, specifically a blogger’s use of language to invite readers and make them feel at home.
It’s a process that takes tons of time and practice, but if you are looking to develop your blogging voice, here are a few ways to get started:
Create a style guide for your blog
A style guide is a set of publishing practices designed to ensure the consistency of communication. Several major companies have style guides that establish a standard for any writing done by employees (I especially love this one from Mail Chimp). As a blogger, you probably won’t need to create a detailed, twenty-page guide for the rules of writing on your blog. Instead, simply create a list of adjectives that describe the voice you want to convey (a few possible words: approachable, humorous, kind, helpful, honest, frank, sassy, bold, friendly, witty, quirky, cute, intellectual). Doing this makes you self-aware of what is special about your writing voice and helps to hold you accountable.
Remember how your fourth grade teacher made you turn in three drafts of your essay titled Why Ponies Are The Best? First draft, second draft, final draft, ugh. You had to go though and circle superfluous words and underline your thesis (“Though horses are also cool, ponies are the best because they have short legs and they are nice.”) Well, your teacher wasn’t crazy. Drafting is a crucial part of the writing process, and as bloggers constantly creating new content, we just don’t do it enough. For the record, you are allowed to take time with your writing. It’s totally okay to give your posts some room to breathe, and in fact, knowing that you will be able to come back and revise makes you a much freer writer.
Read your writing out loud
This is practice is beneficial for any type of writing, but for blogging, it’s absolutely essential. Bloggers communicate with readers through a basis of familiarity. We are not stuffy, all-knowing authorities on existence. We’re real human beings with thoughts, opinions, and skills, but above all else, we are relatable. Reading your writing out loud helps to ensure that the things you are saying sound like you are saying them to a friend. By putting your own literal voice to your words, you are better able to decipher if your writing voice sounds like it belongs to a human or a robot. By the way, in case it’s unclear, the aim is to sound like a human.
Know the rules of grammar
Having a proper grasp of punctuation, syntax, and spelling is essential in establishing credibility with readers. We all know how cringe inducing it is to read a blog post that is littered with grammatical errors, right? At the same time, it’s totally normal to have certain blind spots when it comes to the English language. Perhaps you constantly blank on how to spell “recommendation,” or you forget if the period goes before or after the quotation mark (the answer is before, even though it feels so very wrong sometimes). For those moments, there are general style guides (hey, we know that term!) that you can reference. One of my favorites is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
Break the rules of grammar
There is a difference between making a mistake and making a deliberate choice. Because bloggers often write conversationally, there are opportunities to bend the rules of language just as we do when talking with our friends. While The Elements of Style is basically my writing bible, that doesn’t stop me from intentionally using sentence fragments when they feel right or putting periods between words that I want to emphasize (“I. LOVE. BE. YONCE.”) Don’t go crazy breaking the rules, but also don’t let your adherence to them wreck your writing voice.
Only write about things you care about
There are plenty of ways to lose joy as a blogger, but none are so severe as writing about things that don’t matter to you. It can be tempting, especially when you are first trying to grow your audience, to write posts merely for the sake of driving traffic. The problem with this is that readers can totally sense desperation. In my experience in blogging, people are far more attracted to authenticity than they are to anything else. No matter what the topic is, if you care about it, you will develop an audience that also cares. Stop stressing over those page views, and start thinking about all of the things you want to share with the world. Tell a story to your readers, even if that story is “I made a chocolate cake. Here’s the recipe.”
Read and write a lot (like, every single day)
Mega prolific author, Stephen King, said it best: “The best way to develop your writer’s voice is to read a lot. And write a lot. There’s really no other way to do it.” And with that, I think I’ll just drop the mic.