Language and its relationship to your audience
Peter and I have been talking about the importance of a CLEAR message for several months, but today I’m delving deeper into language and how to find your voice, your style, and your tone when writing. Believe it or not, voice, style, and tone work cohesively and play an important part in all your writing. Your unique writing shines through in your style, and your tone should always be in alignment with your voice; this should be your ultimate goal when writing and standing out so people start to recognize your writing style, tone, and voice, oh, that’s Colleen or Peter or Sam… You know what I’m saying!
Your writing voice is different than your speaking voice. When you write, your words communicate what you are trying to say; your objective is for people to be able to visualize what you’re writing in their minds. When you speak, your body language helps tell the story, i.e., making eye contact with the audience, using your hands, or raising or lowering your voice when you want to make a specific point. One similarity between your writing voice and your speaking voice is the importance of knowing your ideal audience.
Voice, style, tone… similar yes, the same, no
When writing, think of “voice” as your personality. Your writing voice tells the story through words. It’s unique (or should be) from other writers. Think of your taste when you shop for clothes. Your taste in clothes is unique, like your voice. Most people go for the same type of look and are pretty consistent with what they wear depending on the occasion. Think of your writing voice as your personality coming through so the reader pictures what the story is about. They’re drawn into the details. People also begin to recognize your writing voice through the type of language and words you use.
Some of my favorite “beach/vacation” books are by the author, Janet Evanovich. I’m usually laughing out loud in the first five pages (or less) when I pick up one of her books. In my mind, I can actually picture how the characters look (the color of their hair, their height – short, tall), act, and better yet, when she describes the clothes or a situation, my mind follows along.
Writing style is the way you write not what you write. If you’re writing your book, or maybe an article for a magazine, a college paper, or a thesis, there are different guidelines to follow. Different styles call for different choices in your content and how you present it. If your style is sloppy, inconsistent, too wordy, etc., is that going to draw your reader in or confuse them?
For consistency in style, pay attention to the following:
- Specific formatting requirements – see below for examples.
- Spelling. Be consistent with names, places, use the correct form of words, etc. (funny how spell check doesn’t pick up if a homonym is incorrect – oops)!
- Grammar. Check the grammar – punctuation, sentence structure, rules of the language (Grammarly can help, but again, it’s not perfect!).
There are several specific requirements on style depending on what type of document you’re writing. These include, but are not limited to, MLA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style. You’ll notice most of the following references are located at Purdue Online Writing Lab; Peter and I usually reference this when we have a question about style. Side note: If you are writing fiction, you’ll want to talk about style consistency with your writing coach and book designer.
Tone is expressing your attitude when writing; the words used, the type of grammar, and the way words are structured. When you write, tone is shown through your point of view. It is also determined by how formal or relaxed your manuscript/article/blog is when completed. Formal writing is concise and confident without being arrogant. Relaxed or creative writing is more personal. Whether you’re writing in a formal or relaxed tone, it’s important to be clear and know the subject you are writing about.
In summary, the language you use when you write comes together through use of your voice, your style, and your tone. It won’t happen overnight (for most of us), but the more you write the clearer your message becomes for your audience, and always remember, your written word is putting you, your brand, and your business out for the world to see, “It’s More Than Just Words.”
Until next time,