People frequently comment on my clear tone and ask me how I “discovered” it. The short answer is that I like writing, and being a non-native speaker, I had to work harder than my American-born friends to learn to do it. It was a labor of love.
But I’ve also always been the “funny, nerdy chick.” I just always was. So the first important distinction here is:
What do you stand for? Be honest. This is where your tone is born.
Are you sweet and angelic?
Are you the best-friend next door?
Are you seer-like?
Are you clarity and results driven?
What is your drive?
For me it’s always been about getting straight to the point with a few laughs. It’s my personality. It’s how I am with friends and clients. I find humor necessary and a great way of learning and teaching. The more laughter there is during the session, the better the information sinks in because people are relaxed and can see the things they need to see about themselves with less barriers.
Whenever I write in any other way I feel a bit murky inside and delete the whole thing, so I know this is for me.
A good resource: The Pearson Archetype model. http://www.herowithin.com
It outlines 12 archetypes commonly used in advertising and branding to get to the core of the brand.
Look at those and see which 2 (or 3) you feel most connected to. Usually 1 or 2 stand out as the core of your brand (and personality) and several more appear to be “supportive aspects”.
When I think of learning to write, I can also thank engineering school for teaching me to get to the point. Engineers want to make things and flip to the back for the how to.
In other words, people have ADD unless it’s directly relevant to them… and even then…
But we are not all engineers and neither is your audience, so to start this off, let’s talk about the learning styles of your readers to help you organize your content.
The 4 Learning Styles
Why, What, How, What If
Each of us predominantly cares more about one of those more than the others. Which question below sounds more like you?
“Why should I read this?”
“What is it the outlined issue?”
“How do I fix it/make it?”
“What happens if I do/don’t do the suggested steps?”
The bottom line is that you don’t know who’s reading, and you need to appeal to us all, so use the following format in your writing outline (even if you only use mental outlines):
- Tell us WHY we should read this. How do we relate?
- Outline the situation clearly. WHAT is the issue?
- Explain HOW to fix it, do it, built it, etc.
- Describe the best/worst case scenario if they do/don’t follow the advice. (WHAT IF)
That framework works wonders. Try it and see how it goes for you.
Who are you writing for? Are they engineers or moms? Or both? Are they serious or friendly? Or both? And what do they expect from you? In other words: What have you trained them to expect from you?
My audience knows how I write, and if they don’t like it, they simply unsubscribe.
Relate to people intimately
No matter what your drive is, you want to bring the reader IN. They want to know you get IT – whatever IT is – and they want to be engaged. A good tactic here is to start INSIDE the story.
“I would like to tell you a story about how I went fishing with my dad…”
“There I was, my $20 fishing rod, a can of store-bought worms and a flask of Scotch at the river-bed with my graying father.”
See the difference?
Continue in this manner throughout. Break narration with action and vice versa.
We are all similar in that we want to know what to expect from our environment, of which, people, vendors and businesses are a part. It’s a survival thing. If that neighbor’s dog is known to be friendly, you’ll pet it until it switches on you. Then you will probably not play with it again.
If you constantly change on us, you confuse us and leave us feeling – on a fundamental level – uneasy. Who is this person? What do they stand for?
Understanding your brand and positioning here is important. The archetypes you selected above seep into every pore of your brand. If you pick “caretaker” as your core brand identity- let’s say Blue Cross Blue Shield medical insurance selected this (I have no idea) – then your tone should be nurturing and straight about healing.
If you selected “explorer”, we will expect surprises and judge you less for trying crazy new things because that’s why we came to your site in the first place.
See what I mean?
And – conversely – don’t be scared to evolve
People often ask me if they can rebrand later, or what if their brand changes, what if THEY change?
Hey it happens, and thank goodness it does. We NEED to evolve; in fact, we can’t help BUT evolve. It’s hard-wired in us. But chances are we don’t change so much that our entire TONE changes.
Today I care about bicycles, and tomorrow I might care about fishtanks, but the WAY I talk about both will probably stay the same.