I had a meeting with a potential client last week, about writing some blogs for their company. The set of blogs were going to be ghosted on behalf of different members of the Director team, and as I was told, one of them was “very particular about apostrophes”. Another didn’t want to use abbreviations or slang. Each director wanted the writing to be personally distinctive; as though they’d written – or spoken – every word completely as themselves.
If you’re looking for ways to sound like you in written communication, you could do worse than making this your starting point. How would your friends, clients and colleagues recognise your style of speech from others’?
A style guide is a document produced by many large companies to ensure every piece of written communication – from tweets to business reports – is consistent, not only in punctuation and abbreviation, but also to ensure it reflects the brand’s tone and connects with its intended audience. You’d probably be able tell an article printed in The Sun clearly apart from one published in the Financial Times, for example, even if the subject of the article was exactly the same, just by the way it had been written.
Style guides aren’t only relevant to large companies; it’s just as useful for a sole trader or freelancer to develop one, too. When you write to communicate, true consistency in your tone and style will ultimately build recognition and trust from your readers, which is a great start if you’re trying to persuade them to buy something from you.
Style guides also cover audience breakdown – namely, who are you writing for? Consider their tastes and interests; what posts and companies are they connecting with on social media, for example? Do some research to target the people you want to speak to, then pair your own personal style with content that will really spark their interest.
Regardless of your tone and style, there are also a few practical points to consider. What about industry terminology and jargon – will your audience understand them? Think about the style of punctuation you’d like to use; do not start a piece without abbreviations or apostrophes, only to suddenly start using them towards the end. Readers may not notice the actual detail, but they will notice the little ‘jolt’ in their minds as they read, signalling that something about the content wasn’t quite right.
Think about what you’d like your audience feel (and then do!) as they finish reading. Which words really resonate with you in encapsulating those feelings and actions? Oh, and if you’re a fan of emojis then go ahead and use them, but if you’re not, don’t – even if it seems as though everyone else on the planet is! The aim is to communicate as you, remember?
On that note, don’t forget to make sure your style is consistent when people get to the point of meeting you in person, too – otherwise that sense of trust you worked so hard to develop through your words will be wasted.
So what are you waiting for? Go and get started on that personal style guide, and as ever I’m on hand to help if you get stuck, or simply want some more advice on how to communicate better through developing your personal or corporate voice.