The Author's Voice
What's the Word Blog
“The words, their pronunciation, and the methods of combining them used and understood by a community.”
In Part 1 of this series, Connecting and Communicating with Your Audience, I discussed the importance of creating a CLEAR message in a concise manner – be thorough in your message without dragging out your point. Remember, no matter what your message is or what you are writing about, language is more than just words!
In this segment of Connecting and Communicating with Your Audience, what do I mean by Language is More Than Just Words? Language in writing is about your style, your tone, and your voice. These three components express the attitude of the writer and how they relate to the specific audience at a particular point in time.
Style is a technical term in writing. There are three styles of writing: colloquial, formal, and casual. Style is the effect you, as a writer, create through your attitude, language, and use of mechanics in writing. The style you use when writing depends on your audience and who is going to read it (internal or external). Let’s discuss the three styles of writing and the effect each one has on language.
Colloquial language is informal and conversational. This style of writing is different than Business English; it may consist of using slang (epic, don’t have a cow), regional expressions (pop versus soda) depends on where you live, or colorful expressions (golden opportunity, red tape, pink slip).
Another example of colloquial writing is in the world of texting today. Many people don’t use sentence structure, they don’t capitalize words, and they use symbols for words when they text. Suggestion: remember who your audience is and if this style of writing fits the occasion. Personally, texting drives me nuts when I see lowercase words, all sorts of abbreviations, and more :).
Casual language is what it sounds like; it involves the use of everyday words and expressions. The casual style of writing is used for conversations with close friends and family. It is about the interaction and not about the hierarchy, power, or control of the people communicating. For example, when you are home you might wear casual clothes so you’re comfortable but you wouldn’t wear them when you go out in public to the store or out to dinner. When writing casual language your communication is the same as wearing casual clothes at home.
Formal language is used in business; it focuses on expressing yourself in a professional way with attention to spelling and grammar, and the use of more sophisticated words in your sentences. It isn’t necessary to use “big words” or long sentences to impress people. The important issue is to make sure your language enriches the formal mood of what you’re trying to say.
Knowing your audience comes into play when you’re writing. When you’re aware of who you’re speaking to, you know the language to use in order to communicate and connect.
In writing, tone is the emotion and attitude you have on a topic. Your tone changes depending on your point of view, and the words you choose to use. It’s important to keep your tone appropriate to your audience. Your tone can be humorous, optimistic, formal, informal, hopeful, and the list continues. Tone adds flavor to your writing.
Suppose you are writing in your journal; it’s personal and probably for your eyes only. You have the freedom to write using slang and regional or colorful expressions in a casual manner. Or you may be writing a column in a magazine so it is more formal, but if appropriate, you can bring in some humor or familiarity to the piece. Writing a formal speech for academia or a professional conference is a different story; you want to be interesting but adding personal stories or using slang words isn’t appropriate in these instances. You can express yourself in any of these narratives, but it’s important to adapt to your audience. Who is listening?
Your voice is your personality behind your content and your brand; it never changes. Your voice is what you say. When you are consistent with your voice you’re developing the know, like, and trust factor which plays an important role in your business/brand. When you are consistent with your voice in writing, people will know it’s you when you write. Your voice also expresses your unique values and makes the content your own.
In his book, On Writing Well, William Zinsser says:
"Don't alter your voice to fit your subject. Develop one voice that readers will recognize when they hear it on the page, a voice that's enjoyable not only in its musical line but in its avoidance of sounds that would cheapen its tone."
In other words, no matter if you’re writing on two separate subjects, soccer and classical music, keep the writing in your style and voice so people know you’re telling the story.
In closing, your use of style, tone, and voice plays an important role in developing a CLEAR message for connecting with your audience. Each component goes back to your audience and developing the know, like, and trust factor. Your audience becomes use to your style of writing, whether it’s colloquial, casual, or formal. The tone of your writing changes depending on the topic you’re writing about but when your audience can feel and hear your attitude about your subject they’ll know it’s you writing because your voice is constant. Your voice remains the same no matter what topic you’re discussing and they’ll recognize your personality.
Developing your style, your tone, and your voice doesn’t happen overnight. Like anything, practice makes perfect, but we all know no one is perfect so give yourself a break and remember, your language is more than just words!
Looking to create a CLEAR message for you, your business, and your brand so your audience connects with you? Schedule a complimentary strategy session with us!