You’ve finally committed to writing a book to share your knowledge with the world. Good for you!
Maybe you're looking to build upon the credibility you have with your audience, or to develop and enhance your relationship with them. Maybe you want to expand your influence within your niche at a broader level. Or maybe you just want to attract new clients. Those are all great goals for a non-fiction book.
But whatever your motives are, one of the first challenges you'll face is finding your writing voice. You'll need to write in a voice that’s unique to you while you share your expertise with the world.
Your unique voice is the voice that you’ve developed through your experience and knowledge. It's the voice that your audience is already familiar with through other communications with you, such as through your brand's voice. It’s all about how you bring your personality into your writing in a way that your readers will respond positively to.
The key is to refine your voice before you even begin to write your book. To do that, here are some essentials to consider.
Three Different Types of Voice
Think about the differences in the way you talk to someone in a professional manner, as opposed to your in-laws or best friend.
Your writing can be casual, conversational, or formal depending on the voice you choose.
“Geez, you don’t have to bum me out to make a point.”
Casual is the way we talk when we know someone well, or when we use social media. It doesn’t usually work when writing longer form content, but you can use it in blog posts and some web content, depending on where you're publishing.
“You don’t have to criticize me to get your message across.”
Here, it’s more about what you leave out. Conversational writing is like crafting an email to a coworker, talking to your neighbor, or writing for a popular magazine.
“Please refrain from harsh reprimands even if you want to impart a sense of importance in your communications.”
If your audience isn’t expecting it, formal writing can be a turn off. We don’t use it outside of business correspondence, like a resume cover letter or an article for a research periodical.
Finding Your Writing Voice Starts with Your Target Reader
Finding your unique writing voice depends on who you’re talking to. Having a good sense of what your readers will expect to get from your book will put you ahead of the game when it comes to writing it. You should keep this idea in mind with every word you put down on paper.
- For targeting Millennials and younger, opt for a casual style. If you’re writing about popular culture, gossip, or the latest cat meme, then this is the voice you want.
- For the public, or when you don’t have a clear picture of your audience, choose a conversational tone. You’ll come off as friendly and readable.
- If you feel like you should be wearing a suit when you write for your audience, stick with a more formal style. Think twice before choosing a formal voice as the reader can easily judge you as stuffy, boring, or arrogant. And we don’t want that, now do we?
- If you’ve taken on a particular tone with your audience in the past that they’ve responded well to, stick with it – it’s more than likely what they’ll be expecting to see again.
The Words that Make Up Your Voice
You’ve heard it before. . . choose your words carefully. Again focus on who you’re communicating with to decide on your word choices. Will they expect to see simple explanations, or can you guarantee that they’ll understand more complex jargon? The rule of thumb is that the simpler the words, the more casual the writing.
- Casual writing uses contractions such as don’t, can’t, isn’t, while formal would use do not, cannot, and is not. If you would say it in a text message, then it is probably casual.
- Conversational voice can be made more casual by adding slang, abbreviations or popular references such as, “WTH, they just dragged him.”
- Obscure terms and industry jargon can be moved from formal to conversational by defining them, such as, “Kerning, or the spacing between letters, is crucial when creating marketing headlines.”
When it Comes to Voice, Size Matters
Short and quick or long and boring? The length of your sentences and the size of the words are important to nailing the correct voice.
- If your target audience falls within the casual group, use clipped sentences, and fewer words. The format should make the text easy to scan. The reason there are so many listicles is because readers have shorter attention spans.
- Formal writing uses complex terms or imagery, paragraphs are giant blocks of text, and you may find yourself rereading to understand the info.
- Conversational falls somewhere between these two extremes.
So, who do you want your reader to see when they pick up your book? Your voice will tell them, so make sure it’s uniquely you.
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