Should Your Blog Sound Professional or Personal?
Voice is often seen as the mysterious something that can make or break writing. An important part of that is tone, or the general feel of how you use words. Do you write formally, professionally? Or do you take a more colloquial, conversational tone?
There is no single right or wrong answer. In fact, there isn’t even an either-or choice. The range from formal to information is a continuum. But three major factors will help you determine where your blog should fall.
The single most important factor is the audience you want to address. If your choice of language doesn’t reach all of them at the same time, you’re losing readers. It’s a case of finding the least common denominator. That depends, in part, on demographics like age, income, and geographic location.
For example, a site like Thrillist can heavily use dude-bro-speak because of its target audience. As the company says: “Thrillist is a quick, free, daily email that sifts through the crap to find guys the best in everything from food, drink, and gear, to services and travel.”
So the site and its daily emails are self-consciously after a male audience. The language tells you that the target is younger males. Here’s an example:
“Since nothing says alpha male quite like wearing removable faux fur, snag this aptly named Alpha Industries B3 parka, boasting said detachable fanciness along with waterproof nylon, storm flaps, and knit cuffs, also what it’s called when two ladies in a crocheting gang throw down.”
Compare that to Yahoo’s sports blog, which must reach a much wider audience, hence still relaxed but significantly more formal language than Thrillist. It reads more like what you’d read in a newspaper’s sports section; formalized but still conversational:
“With Atrisco leading 24-15 — and needing to win by 10 or more points — a St. Pius defender was called for a tripping penalty with just three seconds remaining on the clock. That penalty pulled Atrisco within field goal range, where the subsequent 41-yarder would have landed the team a playoff berth.”
In general, blogs use a more conversational tone than many articles, books, and magazines.
Keep both of those examples in mind when looking at The Caucus, The New York Times politics and government blog. It shows that even a blog’s conversational tone and personal view can sound far more journalistic:
“Standing in the post-debate spin room just minutes after Gov. Rick Perry of Texas emphatically declared he would eliminate three government agencies, and then struggled to name the final one — counting on his fingers, flipping through his notes and, finally, offering a sheepish, “Oops” — Mitt Romney’s aides looked equal parts delighted and stunned.”
That brings us to the second factor of brand. Your blog is ultimately a voice for the identity of your company. The language you use in everyday life gives unconscious clues as to your educational background, upbringing, socioeconomic status, and environs. The language of your blog must say something about your company, only in this case the choice is deliberate.
The third factor is the context of the given conversation. You might find that tone will change slightly from one day to the next, depending on the topic. For example, one serious topic and another that is lighthearted will likely vary on the formality continuum.
One good clue to tone is to pay attention to how your readers respond. What sort of language do they use? The closer you can match their language, the clearer your messages will be and the more involved you can get your audience.
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