Finding Your Voice

by Kat on May 7, 2010 · 12 comments

What do you like most about your favorite bloggers?  What sets them apart from the rest of the blogosphere?  Even if you tend to read more vegan blogs or more running blogs or more strength-training blogs, I doubt they are all alike.  I doubt they drone on in a “See Kat eat.  Kat eats food.  Eat Kat, eat!” manner.  I doubt their blogs are boring. What’s one thing that tends to really set a blog apart from the rest? Voice.

You could send five bloggers to the same event, cameras on hand, and have them all do the same things, but you definitely won’t get the same post out of each one.  Each blogger has their own voice, their own way of telling a story or conveying information. When I started reading back over my first few posts, it was painful.  I had no consideration for who might read my blog, my text was in giant, unbroken chunks, and I had no pizazz or personality to hold readers’ attention.  When I started my blog, I never thought more than a handful of people would read it. That’s a poor excuse though — whether you have 2 or 10,002 readers, you still shouldn’t churn out the kind of crap I was coming up with.  If you want to eventually have a million followers, start writing like you do.

When it comes to finding your voice, consider a few factors:

  • Who is my audience? Do I want to write primarily to people my own age? Do I want my message to be read and understood by a lay audience or by people who are used to talking in jargon?  Do I want to have a smallish following or would I like to try to make it big?  This is probably the biggest consideration, or at least the one you should think of first.  You can choose your audience using your voice. By writing in a strong voice, you’ll convey who you want to read it, and those people will be the ones that stick around — and bring their friends. 
  • What is my purpose? Am I telling a story or giving instruction?  Dooce is one of my all-time favorite (non-health) bloggers because she’s a WONDERFUL storyteller.  Mama Pea shares that same quality with Dooce, but she also transitions beautifully into some fab recipes.  Rachel manages to convey some very useful information while keeping her readers interested (or just horny?).  You don’t have to only tell stories or only write instructions/recipes, but carry your voice and style through every post, no matter the content.
  • What word choice do I want to use? Beyond just things like cursing on your blog and the ever-present dilemma of, “What if my boss reads it?” think about the words you choose.  Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t mix up SAT vocabulary words with dirty street slang, but figure out for the most part how you want your posts to read.  Will you use familiar terms or are you a sesquipedalian who can whip out some big ones?  I’ve written at least one jargoned post before, and I’m afraid what was supposed to be an informative and important post turned out to be a snoozefest.  Sometimes when a blogger strays from their usual voice to cover a foreign or difficult topic, they fall short for being out of their element.
  • A specific voice is better than no voice. It’s better to stay true to yourself and your voice. It’s tempting to slip into “neutral health blogger voice,” but if we’re all sharing similar information, then it really comes down to people choosing to read it from the bloggers’ whose voices they like best. Think about it this way — if your blog came up in Reader with no title and author, would people still be able to figure out it was yours? If not, make your voice stronger. And once you’ve found your voice, don’t be afraid to use it. Even if your mom reads your blog.

I don’t know about other bloggers, but I try to blog the way that I talk, even if it means sprinkling my posts with far too many four-letter words and parenthetical remarks.  There have been a few times where I’ve blogged about something semi-serious and realized that my voice sounds different in those posts.  While I really am proud of their content, they don’t “sound” like me.  Not every post needs to have the exact same tone and mood, but they should at least cohesively sound like YOU.

I’ve made a few blogging friends because I knew I’d totally get along with them based on their voice.  With really good writers, you feel like you could sit down and have some kombucha or a cup of coffee or a round of tequila shots with them.  A great writer earns your trust and makes you want to read more; they develop an ethos with their words that make them believable and compelling [blogger translation: they make a bigger impact and usually have more followers].  In a blogosphere where we’re all passing around similar ideas, use your voice to stand out!

Out of your favorite bloggers, who has a unique voice?  Can you explain what makes them stand out from everyone else?

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Rachel May 7, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Most people tell me I write EXACTLY like I talk, and this is the best compliment!! I’ve found that sometimes I literally talk out loud as I’m typing. (Actually, most of my posts come from conversations I’ve had with friends that I then turn into blogs. Try it sometime!!) My biggest issue wasn’t finding my voice so much as being unafraid to USE it. When I first started I was like, “But can I talk about getting laid?! Will I be ostracized from the healthy living summit?” My friends all told me they missed my old voice, and slowly I got the confidence to use it again.

When it comes to presenting “boring” information, I used to struggle with that. Now, what works best for me is to find an extended metaphor, usually a sexual one. A lot of times I’ll write up a post with all the facts…and then I’ll be like, Ok, I’m not publishing this till I find a way to make it more interesting/relatable/funny.

Another thing that helped me find my voice was literally helping other people HEAR my voice by doing video. That was a major tipping point in my blog. I think once people heard me talk, they got it more. That’s why I encourage everyone to try video at least once!!
.-= Rachel´s last blog ..Getting It: Bangover 911 =-.

Christie {Honoring Health} May 7, 2010 at 1:01 pm

I am often told on my blog that people love my open hearted honesty and that they can’t find that anywhere else which is what keeps people coming back. I’m all about the tough love and just being real and I still try to deliver that when just sharing recipes, which I do a couple times per week. I currently am struggle with finding the balance of my blog being a personal blog vs. a professional blog to launch my business and using my voice seems harder now.

Rachel brings up a good point about video, I want to try making one but I hate when I listen to my voice and it doesn’t sound the way it does in my head.
.-= Christie {Honoring Health}´s last blog ..The Food Mood Journal =-.

MelissaNibbles May 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Two of my fave bloggers commented above me and I agree with what they’ve said. I love those two because they’re honest and real. Not only in tone, but in their reviews. That’s what keeps me reading and interested.

Leah (Nutritionista) May 7, 2010 at 2:37 pm

“Think about it this way — if your blog came up in Reader with no title and author, would people still be able to figure out it was yours?”

Such a good litmus test to make sure your voice is really coming through on ALL your posts! I worry that I slip into neutral health blogger voice — or SELF magazine cliched health writer voice — occasionally, so this post will help me step it up.
.-= Leah (Nutritionista)´s last blog ..Nutritionista Samples: Kelp Noodles & Seaweed Snacks =-.

Christie {Honoring Health} May 7, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Leah, I know exactly what you mean except I feel like I get into cliche recipe writer mode.
.-= Christie {Honoring Health}´s last blog ..The Food Mood Journal =-.

Laura Georgina May 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm

This is a great post! There are so many blogs out there that the writer’s voice definitely makes a difference in whether I’ll follow a blog or not. That makes me really conscious of how I write–if ever I feel like I’m writing a post in a vanilla kinda way, I end up pulling back and sitting on that post until I can rewrite it to be a bit oomphier.
.-= Laura Georgina´s last blog ..Trini Tales Thursday: Slang… And Sushi, Too =-.

Mama Pea May 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for the mention, ladies. I agree with the statement, “If your post popped up would people know it was you?” I have people tell me that I don’t even need to leave my name on comments because they know it is me. I guess I should stop leaving negative comments as “Anonymous” then… 😉
.-= Mama Pea´s last blog ..Let’s Pretend =-.

Lisa May 7, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Monica at Run Eat Repeat was the first blog I ever found and it’s my favorite because she’s funny and unique. I tend to prefer bloggers who share their life in a unique way and not just share their foods.
.-= Lisa´s last blog ..Bike Route =-.

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