Template Faerie

You're a Human, so Write like One

Published on Tuesday, January 18, 2011
By Sarah Payne
In my blogging experience, I've learned that my voice is my most important tool. A voice in writing is like your personality, and what makes it so important is that each blogger has a unique voice. You don't have to try to be different—all you must do is be you, and you'll be different. In comments, your voice shows that you really care about your reader's feedback. On Twitter, it helps you to engage with other tweeters and attract more followers. On your blog, your readers can almost hear you talking to them. This, I hope, is what your voice can do. But the truth is, many bloggers fail to use their voice in writing. The result is that the reader doesn't feel like a human wrote what they're reading. It's boring to read.

I like to know the person who writes what I read. Unfortunately, I'll never know who they are if they fail to let me know through their writing, and if they remain hidden behind their awkward words. I'm not an expert writer, and I'm nowhere near perfect. I do, however, try to improve my writing, and I hope you do too. So, here are some of my tips for you.

Write how you talk... with exceptions

The best way to sound like yourself in writing is to write how you talk—that is, without the ums, uhs, and stuttering. Your voice will naturally come out through your style. Don't use words you wouldn't normally say.

Many people believe that your style of writing should adjust to fit your audience. I don't agree with this, because your style of writing is your style of writing, and you can only have one. If your audience doesn't like your writing, that's their loss. You shouldn't be writing for them anyway, so don't try to impress them.

Here is a quote from On Writing Well, an excellent book on non-fiction writing. If I ruled the planet, it would be a required read for everyone.
     Soon after you confront the matter of preserving your identity, another question will occur to you: "Who am I writing for?"
     It's a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer. You are writing for yourself. Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person. Don't try to guess what sort of thing editors want to publish or what you think the country is in a mood to read. Editors and readers don't know what they want to read until they read it. Besides, they're always looking for something new.
     Don't worry about whether the reader will "get it" if you indulge a sudden impulse for humor. If it amuses you in the act of writing, put it in. (It can always be taken out, but only you can put it in.) You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment, you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for. If you lose the dullards back in the dust, you don't want them anyway.

Quit being so formal

Formal writing uses more elaborate and technical words than those normally said by human beings. It is also, in my opinion, a jumble of unnatural words that could easily be exchanged for the shorter, simpler, and more understandable words. It doesn't matter how technical you think your subject is—there is no good reason why you should be formal.

Formal writing often contains an excess of unnecessary words as well. It seems that some people believe that the longer an article, and the more words and the longer the words used to describe something, the better. The opposite is true. For example, below is a sentence taken from the article Why is Business Writing So Bad? by David Silverman. (Beware of the large and scary ad you might encounter if you decide to check out the article.)
It is the opinion of the group assembled for the purpose of determining a probability of the likelihood of the meteorological-related results and outcome for the period encompassing the next working day that the odds of precipitation in the near-term are positive and reasonably expected.
This sentence makes me laugh every time I read it. It can be translated to, "it might rain tomorrow".

On the other hand, informal writing can be exaggerated to the point of being improper English. I don't consider made up words such as "gonna" and "whaddya" to be proper. I don't think they should be used at all.

Informal writing, in my opinion, uses more contractions and shorter, simpler words that mean the same thing as their longer counterparts. You don't "utilize" something in informal writing, you "use" it. You don't "consume" an apple, you "eat" it.

I don't have any statistics to prove it, but I believe that informal, when not taken to the extreme, will attract more readers because it is easier and more interesting to read, and sounds like a real person. Being informal doesn't mean you can't be technical or state facts. It doesn't mean you can't use proper English. Informal is just a style of writing.

To be a blogger is to be a part of the community. You need to interact with your readers like a real person, and a stilted, formal writing style will conflict with your humanity.

Now that I have shared my crazy opinions, I want to hear yours. Leave your comments below!

Image credit: Matt-Richards

About the Author

I'm Sarah Payne, the author of this blog. I'm an amateur writer and template designer, an avid Blogger-user, and a reptile lover. One way or another, I ended up creating TF to show people that blogs don't have to be ugly and to share my unavoidably opinionated rants. You can also find me on Twitter and Google+.