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5 Ways to Build Your Blog’s Voice

Voice can give a blogger a serious edge. Your unique voice can set you apart from the competition, form a foundation for your brand, engender audience loyalty, and more. If you find it difficult to retain readers, and you’re confident of the quality and accuracy of the content you provide, you may need to work on your voice.

What is Voice?

Voice is the tone in which you present content. Your blog’s overall tone is also affected by visual elements like colours and fonts, but voice is a critical element in the tone of your content.

If a message is what we say, then voice is the way we express what we say. Pace, rhythm, turns of phrase, idioms — even the way you use punctuation — all contribute to the voice of your blog. Unless you’re a die-hard writing buff, it probably won’t pay you to get too hung up on grammar or the finer points of semicolon usage. Instead, focus first on assessing your posts in terms of how they sound overall.

First, choose a word that best reflects how you want to sound — “friendly” or “authoritative” or “experienced”, for example. Then assess a cross-section of your posts, scoring each on how well you feel it meets that requirement. Voice is strongest when it’s consistent, so also look at elements like tags and category labels, email autoresponders, error pages, and so on, to see how well they reflect your desired tone of voice.

This process will probably let you identify some inconsistencies that dilute the voice of your blog — and make it more difficult for your audience to know what they can expect, or to identify with your blog’s personality.

Ensuring Consistency

For many of us, it can be difficult to work out exactly what makes one post  sound better — friendlier, more authoritative, or whatever — than another. All we know is that this post sounds friendly and relaxed, while that one is flat, and this other one comes across as a bit of a rant.

The good news is that you can take a number of steps to make the voice of your posts more consistent.

1. Picture your audience.

If you want your blog to sound friendly, you might imagine a good friend who’s in your target audience each time you write a blog post. It might sound odd, but holding a clear picture of the person you’re writing for in your mind while you write can have a significant impact on the tone of your content.

2. Watch your mood.

With experience, you’ll learn to churn out content on demand, in a consistent voice. But while you’re still getting a handle on your blog’s voice, it can be a good idea to try to write when you’re in a good frame of mind. Not just a positive frame of mind, but one that reflects your respect for your readership and your enthusiasm for your blog topic.

We all have moments when we’d rather be doing something other than writing a post for our blogs; try not to write at those times, at least while you’re finding your voice. If you’re not interested in what you’re writing, that’ll come across in your post’s tone.

3. Separate writing from publishing.

Try to avoid publishing posts as you write them. Instead, save the post and review it later, when you’re in a different frame of mind. This way, even if you can’t avoid writing posts in varying moods, you’ll be able to cast an objective eye over your posts, and to edit and tweak them in ways that reinforce the tone you’re aiming for.

Don’t be afraid to edit your posts if you don’t feel they’re couched in the right tone of voice. You might find that a quick review, with fresh eyes — and the implementation of a few well-chosen tweaks — prior to publishing makes all the difference to the tone of your posts.

4. Create a style guide.

A style guide — a set of rules for grammar, spelling and expression — can help you to automate elements of your blog’s voice.

If you can identify, by looking critically at your blog, and blogs you like the tone of, elements that detract from your tone, you can list them in your style guide. Over time, you’ll compile a list of rules that can act as a sort of template that you can apply to every post your write.

“Have I used friendly text for links, rather than simply pasting the URL straight into the body copy of my post?” you’ll ask yourself. “Have I mentioned the position of every individual I’ve quoted in this article, to show the quality of my research and my respect for my industry peers?”

Using your style guide as a checklist on which to assess your posts can help to ensure that the tone of your blog remains consistent.

5. Consider tactics that may dilute your voice.

Some blogging tactics may actually serve to dilute your blog’s voice. Guest bloggers, for example, probably won’t write the way you do, and may jar with readers’ expectations of your blog’s voice. Similarly, being paid to write a post in which you promote a product can alter your tone of voice in subtle ways. You may even write about certain topics within your chosen field in a way that doesn’t reflect the tone of your blog.

Before you adopt a new tactic on your blog, consider what it might mean for  your blog’s voice. Consistency of voice is crucial when it comes to establishing trust and loyalty among your readership, so it pays — in the short- and long-term — to weigh up the pros and cons of each new tactic before you adopt it.

Glen Stansbery outlined some handy tactics that can actively help to enhance your blog’s voice, but again, use these with discretion and caution. Giving various approaches an open-minded try before you set your heart on adopting them is a good modus operandi.

Have you established a strong voice for your blog? What advice can you share?

Continue reading this series of articles on questions surrounding blog content.

About the Author: Georgina has more than ten years’ experience writing and editing for web, print and voice. She now blogs for WebWorkerDaily and SitePoint, and consults on content to a range of other clients.

About Georgina Laidlaw

Georgina Laidlaw is a freelance content developer, and Content manager for problogger.net. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    Great advice. I agree. Having a voice, and that too a consistent one, can greatly be beneficial to you. It compasses a whole range of benefits, including branding.

    I like how you said ’1. Picture your audience.’. This will visually help in getting a consistence voice.

    “Try to avoid publishing posts as you write them. Instead, save the post and review it later, when you’re in a different frame of mind.”

    The classic 24-hour rule. I read it on copyblogger. The rule says that after 24 hours of writing a piece, you can have a more objective view of your article.

    Kindest,
    Nabeel

  2. Thanks for the important point of “Separate writing from publishing.” Will practice this point from future!

  3. Excellent points Georgina. I think # 3 is especially important. I try to follow this rule and have many times come back to a post a day after writing it and I’m kind of shocked at how it sounds. Not that it’s bad, just not the typical me. It’s really interesting how my own writing voice changes from day to day as my mood changes.

  4. I have actually been thinking about voice and consistency over the past week. Sometimes I write light, funny posts and other posts are more serious. I am trying to mix it up, but wonder if that actually creates confusion. I am staying true to my elevator pitch though.

    Right now I am analyzing the stats based upon voice (categorizing posts by funny, neutral, serious, authoritative/how-to, etc) to see if I have a better reader response to one style over the other.

    This post was helpful in this process. Thanks!

  5. Rob berman says:

    Number 3 is really important. Even if you think you are following all the rules you need that cooling off period. I tend to write in bursts so some of my posts sit a while before I publish them. I can come at them with a new perspective in editing them.

    Rob

  6. Hey Georgina,

    Another great post. You’re really doing awesome work here.
    Some great points there.
    I really like the point #4 – Create a Style Guide…!! Grreatt…

    Thanks for sharing this great Post. Keep up the great work.

    ~Dev

  7. Josh Garcia says:

    Hey Georgina,

    There were times I did save the post for later viewing and found it that the words that I was using shows what mood I was in. That’s amazing!

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  8. Mike Paul says:

    Great stuff as usual. I personally love the point about creating your own style guide.

    It’s important that your blog keeps the same tone throughout each post, as your readers will come to know you as they “hear you speak” through your posts.

    Be consistent and be true to yourself. Soon, you’ll find you’ve got a winning blog with avid and dedicated readers.

  9. Jenny says:

    I started operating with a style sheet last autumn, and it’s been great for my blog. It really helps to provide consistency and it also helps me to more easily post recipes and tutorials in a standard format.

    I also avoid guest posts now. I tried for a long time to encourage guest posts on my site, but, frankly, my readers never seemed to like them. Traffic would decline, comments and shares. So I don’t bother with them any more.

  10. Jenny says:

    I forgot to mention – many of my old posts and recipes aren’t written according to the style sheet and while I try to rewrite them – some slip through the cracks and I actually do get emails from readers who are confused by the old format or who so strongly prefer the new style that they suggest I “revise” the old posts. And the old posts weren’t all that bad in the first place, after all they drove traffic and grew the blog.

  11. melissa says:

    i never thought that “voice” or setting a consistent tone in writing in blogs is a critical part which is usually taken for granted, i didn’t realize that it can make a big impact.

  12. I agree with you. Having a “voice” in your writing is someone who has vast experience and a wealth of knowledge. Writing is not something that we can just pick up around a corner. It is acquired through years of hard work and constant practice. Not everyone is a great writer though.

  13. I hate to say but some blogger just couldn’t control their mood, even if they are professional blogger. Well, I feel mood is sometime a very hard thing to learn when I’m writing, because the style is always controlling it.

  14. Rebecca says:

    My favorite bloggers are all very conversational in tone. It makes me feel like I’m reading a friend who happens to be an expert in a certain field rather than an expert who is trying to explain things to me that I just don’t understand.

    Therefore, that’s what I strive for. A conversational expert.

    Thanks for a great post.

  15. Coincidentally, I have just done a blog post today about making sure that students have a distinct “voice” and how this relates to their education. A lot of your points are reflected in my post (which obviously refers specifically to educational blogging). See http://ow.ly/2kVee

  16. krissy knox says:

    I have a consistent voice in my blog, yet I use both an experienced and conversational tone at the same time. Somehow it works for me and my readers / commenters. Thanks for a very helpful post! I will review some of my posts and see how consistent I am, and attempt to be so in the future. Thanks!

  17. Thanks for the tips! I’m new to blogging and would always scratch my head when I would read about “finding your voice”. I totally learned #2 the hard way!!

  18. John says:

    Good post!

    I’d like to see an example of number 4: “Create a style guide.” I use a style guide for design but I never thought about using it for writing. I’d love to see some detailed examples of what other people use for this. Thanks.

  19. Andrew says:

    Good points – I need to write first, publish later!

  20. Definitely like the comment on watching your mood. When my mood is sour… it can affect work, and blogging just is not a good idea. I can find plenty of menial tasks to get done during those times!

  21. Good article with definitive ways to improve what most bloggers love…writing. I worked in radio for many years and learned early on to imagine you are talking to someone you know and it will come across more real and personable. The same is true with a writing voice; as you write imagine it’s someone in your audience and write just to them, not to the masses. Each time you write imagine someone different and over time you have visionsin your mind of who your audience and writing to them will come naturally.

    Happy writing.

    Steve

  22. Jimmy says:

    No consistent voice on my blog at all, great post and something to work on.

  23. Heidi says:

    Thank you for the great tips! I’m still searching for my own voice; one thing I’ve had to recognize about myself is that I tend to be a bit of a “sponge”… too much time spent around someone else, or their writing, and I pick up their spoken/written habits. What I’ve learned from this is that my best writing occurs when I’ve had a chance to separate myself a bit from outside influence.

    Tip 3 is a huge help on this issue for me as well, and I’ll throw a bit of a 3.a tip out there for anyone who’s interested; try printing your post, and reading it on paper. It’s amazing what you’ll notice on paper that you completely miss on the screen!

  24. Daniel says:

    Great advice! From now on I will, some of the times anyway, sperate the writing from the publishing. How could I forget the reviewing part? My high school teachers probably roles over every time.

  25. John Sherry says:

    Georgina your quote at the start is pure gold; “voice is the tone in which you present content”. Brilliantly put and observed.

    I use the same political tool of creating a profile for targeted voters i.e. Mid west Man or similiar. I have formed a made up person in my mind plus their circumstances. Thus I know who I want to talk to, what messages or advice will help them and ensure I’m writing posts that they can relate to. And I agree wholeheartedly on tactics as my guest bloggers do seem different to me so I’m not pushing that side much. Maybe I’m just weird but happy to be so.

    This post is one of the best I’ve read and it’s a highlight for me. Applause!!!!

  26. I’m looking into this more now… At first I was spending too much time on stats and advert revenue. If you can limit that to one hour a day then you can spend at least one hour on your content which is the most important part…

    Networking should bring it all together!…

    ;]

  27. godlark says:

    Thanks for post. Creating a style guide is good idea. I’m going to add it to my TODO.
    Thanks for my blog’s voice people recognise will be recognising me.

  28. The style guide is a great idea. I know that I frequently change the voice and tone of my own posts over time, sometimes being funny, sometimes dead serious and I see how that could get frustrating to a reader.

    A style guide could help things stay on track and create a more consistant image for a blog. Great idea.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  29. I like this post. This is something i had never really considered before but i suppose everyone has a style of their own. I don’t like the idea of stratifying your ‘voice’ into a set of rules. When you are writing should just flow naturally and you should have the same style every time.

    Some of these points i do agree with strongly however, the guest posting can detract from your style and watching your mood. You should be totally focused on what you are writing and not let your mood affect the content.

  30. I’m working on establishing my strong blog voice and I really enjoyed the tips in this post. My favorite one is the first point you made about picturing the person maybe a friend you have that would enjoy reading your blog. I also totally agree with the second point you have to be in the right mood when blogging because it does come across in your writing!

    Jason Kienbaum

  31. Krystle says:

    Great insight. I usually don’t pay attention to the voice of my blog, however, I did notice that the voice makes a great difference on how people see you and your blog.

  32. Kate Russell says:

    Thanks for the idea to publish AFTER writing and resting. Kinda like writing a nasty letter to someone you’re mad at and letting it sit overnight for the passions to die down. While I’m all for passion in our posts, letting something lie for 24 hours is a great idea.

    Your style guide comments are also point-on. I’ve been trying to get people to use simple, one-page style guides for websites and blogs, and they look at me as if I’d ask them to rewrite Chicago or AP! I now give them a box template just to show how easy it is to put something down on paper. That seems to help. For kicks, it can be downloaded at http://blogs.nd.edu/web-musings/files/2010/05/Style-Guide-Template.pdf if anyone’s looking for ideas.

    I’d love to hear from others on what they use!

  33. Christian says:

    These are great ideas.

    I struggle more with actually implementing them than understanding them.

    When you are rushed it is hard to keep everything in mind.

  34. Kristia says:

    Avoid publishing posts as I write them…got it. I recently found your site and I really enjoy your posts. Keep’em coming!

  35. Interestingly, I think that my voice is consistent on my blog even though I hop around with topics. I’ve tried to keep to 3 umbrella topics and then write within them.

    It’s funny because if I had to describe how I get my voice across, I wouldn’t know how to explain it.

    What I think I mean is that my personality comes through in my writing, in the images I choose and and even in how I have my blog set up. I feel consistent, balanced and comfortable on my own blog. Hopefully, my readers feel the same way too.

    Thank you for writing about voice in such a clear way.

  36. Great advice friend… Never thought that guest posts and sponsered reviews can dilute our blog’s voice. Thanks for bringing it to our notice.

  37. I have to say that this is one area (along with content creation) that has never troubled me. But these are useful tips non the less.

  38. Sam Denis says:

    Voice is very important. Voice gives a blog originality. However, I am wondering if having a way too original voice can offend the readers. I mean, can you be funny while writing about money making techniques?

  39. i think the facebook has its own branding ways and to traffic building is more like to be like spamming some times.

  40. James M says:

    My current process of writing is setting up draft posts with brief notes about what the post should consist of, and then let it be for a while. Sometimes, I’ll come back to some of those drafts after a few hours away, other times, a few days. After I write the post, I’ll let that sit a while longer and look it over again.

    If I look over my drafts and an idea that I thought was brilliant before doesn’t have the same impact on me, I’ll either let it sit longer or delete it. No point in writing about something that I won’t even be interested in after a few days.

  41. I couldn’t agree more with point 3. I have many times thought I had the best post only to apply the rule of 24 and hating it later. The Rule of 24 of course is letting the piece to sit for 24 hours without looking at it then coming back to read it and when you do, read from your readers perspective and see what you think. It takes some practice but I have been using it and find that my posts are now getting better traffic than before.

  42. If I look over my drafts and an idea that I thought was brilliant before doesn’t have the same impact on me, I’ll either let it sit longer or delete it. No point in writing about something that I won’t even be interested in after a few days.

  43. cheska says:

    this is a good read indeed. who would’ve thought that voice is important in creating blogs. hmmmm… interesting.

  44. Carolina Web says:

    Great piece. Great insight. I am reading up before I begin blogging and this was exactly what I needed. I have always adjusted my professional writing style in the past based on the target audience, but I never specifically asked myself – are you friend, professional or expert? There were times a better tone would have done.

    A reminder to check your mood “at the door” is a good idea. It saves time on the editing.

  45. Great tip. This is very timely for me, I just have started my blog and I really find this tip very helpful for starters just like me. I will read on your other tips too. Hope you could visit my site. Best of regards and goodluck.

  46. Hi Georgina,

    You make many good points, but the two I consider to be the most important are – developing your unique voice (tone, style) and ‘laying articles down’, for a period (24 hours is good, a week is better as long as they’re not constrained by newsworthiness). To prevent inconsistencies in style. I tend to think of writing as similar to sculpture – you rough draft, then fine tune the detail. Without the rough draft phase, the shape of the article tends to be flabby.

    I also agree about using guestbloggers – sometimes it can jar with the tone of the site, but I’ve had a few recently – who really ‘got’ the style quickly. It required minimum editing to include the material.

    It is evolutionary – and over time, the shackles and imaginary constraints that you put on your writing, begin to disappear. You start to say what you mean, in more direct language. It’s noticeable (if you follow the stats) how many more people start to take an interest in what you’re saying, when your writing starts to evolve.

    Thanks.

  47. Wii Hacks says:

    “Try to avoid publishing posts as you write them” Great advice.

  48. Jeff Hopeck says:

    Love #2 and have such a weakness at doing it. After reading it here and seeing the impact it can have, I can promise one thing, the DRAFT button is going to become my new best friend.

    I have such a horrible habit at writing based on my current mood and then hitting submit. Thanks Darren, great tip!

  49. ictians says:

    Great Article. I liked the co-relation of article with the voice. You are right, posts should not be published in a hurry. Thanks.

  50. Laura says:

    I have a quick question about comments vs. guest articles. I make plenty of comments on other blogs, and I have also written a few guest articles. I am just wondering, does Google look at these back links equally, or are guest blogs viewed as a ‘better vote’ than just a comment? I really enjoy your blog, I learn something new every time I stop by, keep up the good work!