Being stylish means standing out. It’s about knowing who you are, what your brand stands for and how you get your message out to the world. When it comes to writing online, it’s called word styling for a reason!
You know style when you see it. It just looks effortlessly good. You only have to think fashion and the list of style icons is endless, Olivia Palermo, Kate Moss, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Wintour. But when you look at these women they just look so together.
When it comes to word styling, style is mostly about your tone, voice and language.
After all, we’ve all had that email… you know, the one taken out of context because of the way it read. Sure, you weren’t meaning to sound rude but, unfortunately, you came across that way. Hey, it’s not your fault you left the caps lock on!
So what is style?
It’s not what you say but how you say it, including the language you use, the personality you convey and the emotion behind it.
That comes down to two things: Voice and tone.
It can get a little tricky as to what the distinction is so I’ve gone with this:
Voice = personality
Tone = emotion/quality of the voice
Finding your voice
So what’s your business’s personality? If your business was a famous person, who would it be? Suave and cool like Sean Connery? Entertaining and upbeat like Cameron Diaz? Young and light-hearted like Justin Bieber? (Ha, yes, I just wrote that!) Or refined and stylish like Charlotte from Sex and the City?
My business’s personality is me. I’m a conversationalist – I’m a Gemini and we don’t mind a chat. I like sharing information and am hungry for it. Learning something new rocks my world. So when I find something cool you’ll be the first to know. I also rank beauty very high on my list of values. I like to look good because it makes me feel good. When you feel good you do your absolute best. I like to be surrounded by beauty in all facets of the word. I like to have fun, meet new people and hang out with old friends.
So what does that mean for my content? Well, my content needs to reflect this. So when I’m writing my own content, not that of my clients, I stick to my five Cs:
Your formula for your content writing may be different. This is what I know works for me, my style, my business, and my readers.
Chatty – Do I ask questions throughout my content? Is it like having a convo with me? In fact, if you do have a conversation with me, it will be very similar to reading my content. It is about being authentic and this is how you build a connection and start to develop a relationship with your peeps.
Contribution – Am I sharing quality information that’s valuable? Is it credible? Am I teaching them something they don’t already know?
Clean – Is it well structured? Does it make sense? Is it free of errors? Is it easy to read?
Cool – Is it fun? Or is there an element of fun? It is entertaining (to a degree)? Does it have word style?
Consistent – Am I doing all of this each and every time in all areas of my content writing?
Your business’s personality should come through in all of your writing. When I write my web pages and blogs, it’s always with my personality in mind.
Because your voice is your business’s personality, it should rarely change, regardless of who you’re speaking with, whether you’re writing a web page or blog, social media update or profile, or just sending an email. This is how you create consistency in your writing – and authenticity in your brand.
Word Style Step
Find your favourite blog or website… what do you love about it when you read the content, listen to the podcast or watch the videos? Write down some notes about the personality you notice in every piece of content.
I’ve got a great example for you… you have probably heard of MailChimp, the email gurus? Here’s what they say about themselves on their website when it comes to tone and voice:
- Fun but not childish
- Clever but not silly
- Confident but not cocky
- Smart but not stodgy
- Cool but not alienating
- Informal but not sloppy
- Helpful but not overbearing
- Expert but not bossy
- Weird but not inappropriate
Your personality is how you build momentum, entice the kind of readers you want and, ultimately, attract new customers. This is one of the reasons why we focused so much on getting clear on your audience in the Soul and Substance section – because that audience will have an impact on your voice.
Who is your target audience? How old are they? Where do they live? Where do they hang out? What do they read? Are they young and savvy professionals, mature and established boomers, parents, stay-at-home mums or mumpreneurs?
Determining this will help you voice your information, opinions and ideas in a way they can relate to.
Don’t take that tone with me!
The best way to understand the difference between tone and voice is to come back to the real, offline world. Think about how you speak when you’re excited. How about when you’re angry or upset? What if you were speaking to a young child or an elderly woman? A friend? Stranger? Your boss or your bestie?
Your personality hasn’t changed in any of these situations. You’re still you. But the language and expression and quality of what you’re saying has changed.
The tone of this book is relaxed and conversational. It’s professional but by no means boring (I hope!). There are tid bits, tips, and stories. It’s not a straight-down-the-line book of industry info or jargon, because, seriously, who wants to read that? I could have written it that way intentionally – but that’s not how I want my business to be perceived. It’s not the right tone for my ideal readers.
My ideal readers are female small business owners in the fashion and beauty industry, they are typically 28-45 years old, live in metro areas, are often married and may have children, they definitely have a pet (namely a dog), they place a high emphasis on health, beauty and/or fashion, and they’re funky and fun people.
I know what style they like to read.
If I was writing for a client or a partner, I usually have to write in a different style. It was the same when I was a journalist covering everything from court to features. Court reporting needs to be matter of fact, very straightforward, whereas feature writing can be more colourful and a little more relaxed.
Meanwhile, consider how your tone would sound if you’d been stuffed around by someone – say, like a mechanic who overcharged you for a service that was incomplete. You get my drift?
Think about who you are writing for. What sort of tone would they best respond to – conversational and friendly, frank and irreverent, formal and informative, or something else?
You must think of creative ways to stand out from the pack that are in line with your personality and the tone you use. Try tips, stats, case studies and quotes, or even song lyrics to help you leave a lasting impression.
Word Style Step
Try writing a couple of short blog posts using different tones. Then, share these with someone who is an ideal customer (or who fits your ideal customer profile) and see which version they prefer.
Writing is just like having a conversation
I whole-heartedly believe this. If you’re having trouble writing your content, I suggest writing like you talk. How much more authentic can you get?
Just pick a topic and go for it! Pretend you are having a chin wag with your bestie or best client about it. What would you say to them? What would you cover in your discussion? How would you say it?
Try writing how you talk.