One of the phrases that gets tossed around when people are giving advice about business blogging is that of “blogging voice”, or “blog voice”, as in the admonition to “find your blogging voice”.
I think that intuitively makes some sense. Like a writer’s “voice” with a blogger twist.
From some online research, I’ve come to suspect that people use the term without really thinking much, other than at a superficial level, about what they mean.
For some it seems to be just a fancy way of saying “be yourself”, or “be genuine”.
Which is fair enough. And maybe there is need for such an admonition, especially when there are so many posts on business blogs that read as if they have been generated by a robot programmed to write bland, unengaging PR puff.
But why not just say, “when you blog, be yourself”?
Well, that might not be enough guidance for some, particularly if writing is not their “thing”.
So there may be a case for using a term like “blogging voice” to get people thinking about how they write and how well or poorly that serves their business goals.
And in fact I believe that at least the more thoughtful and experienced of people who use the term mean something more than just “being yourself”.
It’s partly about style, in the sense not just of formal structures or rules of grammar or syntax, but that something special that sets your work apart from others, something distinctive.
It seems to me to carry also a sense of “tone” and even of personality – or, some might say – persona (which suggests projecting some particular role or particular aspect of personality).
It’s not easy
While some people may be born able to write in their own distinctive voice, for many of us – I would say most – it is not an easy thing to get the balance right.
In a post about finding your writing voice, James Chartrand observes:
But figuring out your writing voice isn’t easy. It’s especially hard for new writers to find their writing voice, because they already feel awkward having their work in the spotlight and subject to public approval. So they write in a voice that they feel they should use – but their writing voice usually comes off sounding stiff and generic.
There is an extra complication if you are writing for a company, and where there is an explicit or implicit expectation of a less than personal style. But even in that situation, the blogger needs to have her own voice come through. Otherwise the company blog will be at serious risk of becoming just another unloved, unread, unvisited repository of corporate speak.
Is there a simple way to find your blogging voice?
There are lots of ways to find your blogging voice.
You can do courses on writing. You can read blog posts about how to find your blogging or writing voice – like the one by James Chartrand, which I quoted from above. You can get a writing coach.
All of those are fine in their place.
But even then some people will feel daunted by the challenge.
Thinking about this as I wrote this post, I remembered the best advice I ever had about writing, which translates easily to advice about blogging.
The advice was from a friend long ago, an old school journalist, who had started his career on a small country newspaper and went on to become a much-read columnist for a metropolitan daily.
He told me that as a young cadet journalist he had been summoned into the office of the editor, who without preamble asked him gruffly, “Have you got a grandmother, son?”
“Yes,” my friend said.
“Well, write for her!”
He said that whenever after that he was stuck for what to write or how to write it, he would picture his grandmother and write for her.
I took that story to heart and even now, years after I heard that story, and if I’m experiencing a bit of blogger’s block, I think of my maternal grandmother – who had what I realise in retrospect was an amazing ability to listen to me prattle on – and I write for her. It would be unthinkable that I would do so in anyone else’s voice.
What’s your blogging voice, or what would you like it to be?
I don’t expect I can be completely objective about my own blogging voice, but in a spirit of sharing, I would offer the following attempt:
serious without being ponderous, ironic, keen to share information and tips on how to make things work (especially in social media), personal without oversharing, sometimes whimsical, friendly.
Care to share how you would describe your own blogging voice? And if you include a link to your blog (one per person, please) that would help the rest of us to come visit and hear for ourselves.