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Voice versus Style: What’s the Difference and Why Should Bloggers Care?

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When speaking about the art of writing, the words voice and style get throw around, often incorrectly. Whether you know the difference or not, we often don’t give much thought about these abstract concepts, allowing them to just happen naturally. But as a blogger should you care?

Nope. You shouldn’t care. The end. Quickest post ever.

Just kidding.

Of course you should care! If you care about the art of writing, if you care about producing the best content for your readers, and if you care about growing as a blogger, you should also care about understanding voice and style.

So let’s talk about them.

You Gotta Have Style

Don’t worry; even if you wear socks with sandals, you have style in your writing. We all have style. And, when speaking about writing and using the words style and voice interchangeably, most people really mean style. As a blogger, you should constantly be thinking about and working on your style.

Style is, simply, how you write. Do you use long, flowery sentences? Are you to the point? Is your writing formal? More casual? All of these things contribute to your style. Your style can – and probably will – change based on what you’re writing. For example, when I’m writing a post here on the New Media Expo blog, I use a more casual voice than I’ve used when writing press releases for clients in the past.

Certainly, some stylistic quirks will stick with you no matter where or what you’re writing. It’s the way your words naturally flow. You can turn off that facet and alter your writing style, though doing so probably won’t feel comfortable or correct, especially on a blog. It’s not a good idea. To grow as a writer, you need to constantly be thinking about your natural writing style and how you can improve. But that doesn’t mean you have to try to force yourself into another style.

Using myself as an example, something I do often in my writing is start sentences with and and but. In fact, I just did it in the previous paragraph. It’s one of those key signatures in my writing, and it’s something consistent across all of my blogs. I can shut it off (like I might if I’m writing a press release), but it feels unnatural.

I am, however, using the knowledge that this is a stylistic signature of mine to improve my writing. I used to use it a lot more, simply because I was unaware I was doing it. It might be a useful sentence structure, but when overused, it makes a post choppy. So, I’ve been trying to improve by reconsidering how I form sentences.

Style does evolve overtime, especially if you’re diligent about improving as a writer. What’s important is that you think about style when writing so you give your readers the best post possible. Give some thought to how you can best serve your audience while still conveying the message you want to convey.

Finding Your Inner Voice

Voice is a little trickier to put your finger on than style. I’m unashamed to say that I’ve used this term incorrectly in the past and I’m still working on clearly understanding both the concept and how I reflect my voice in my writing.

The clearest way I can describe voice is this: it is your soul, your perspective, your worldview. Voice is not the way you put words together, but rather the special sauce that makes your readers fall in love with you. As a blogger, few readers will fall in love with you because they like the way you use semicolons. Readers can certainly appreciate your writing style, but what they’ll fall in love with is your voice.

I’ll use one of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson, as an example. Jenny is best-known for her blog The Bloggess, where she writes about her life dealing with motherhood, depression, marriage, pets, and daily shenanigans that are almost guaranteed to crack you up. On The Bloggess, Jenny has a funny, pithy writing style often peppered with colorful language and inner-monologue sentences that only escape being run-ons by technicality. I absolutely love her writing style.

But her voice? I love that even more. Jenny’s writing voice reflects that she is humble, barely allowing herself to believe that she has so many fans. She approaches situations from the point of view from someone who deals with anxiety and depression. Often, her posts reflect how she grew up: in a close-knit family from a rural area of Texas, which resonates with me because I’m from a very rural area myself. Her opinions, her background, her experiences in life, the type of person she is – these things all affect her writing. Readers become fans of Jenny because she’s funny, but lots of people are funny. They fall in love with her not because of her wit, but because her writing voice is so strong and it’s easy to relate to her.

Have you ever read someone’s blog, met them in real life, and said (or just thought), “I know this is the first time we’re meeting, but I feel like I know you!”? Have you ever felt defensive or protective when someone attacks a blogger you like? Have you ever cried or felt otherwise emotionally charged when reading a blog post? That sense that someone you’ve never met is your best friend and really understands you is due to writing voice, not style.

Your writing voice does not change. It is who you are. You shouldn’t “work on” your voice as much as you should work on letting it shine through in your writing.

I hope this helps clear up the difference between writing voice and writing style. Sometimes, as bloggers, we can get wrapped up in perfecting the information we’re conveying, but thinking about your posts from an artistic sense is important too. Don’t just put your head down and write. Be thoughtful about how you are presenting your message to readers and what you can do to improve your style and more clearly reflect your voice.

The Courage and Confidence to run a Podcast

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My podcasting work at the Edinburgh Fringe in the last fortnight has led me to think about what qualities are useful in podcasting and social media content creation. And I think I need to add another one to the list.

I just can’t make up my mind if it should be courage or confidence.

Let’s backtrack slightly. I’m doing a daily podcast from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2500 different shows over three and a half weeks). Each show is about forty minutes long, and follows a standard chat show format of jokey opening, news and recommendations, followed by three long interviews and some music to finish.

Each interview needs around 30 minutes of time in my diary (if I’m being generous) plus an hour beforehand to see the show, then some editing on top of that, and compile the final podcast each morning. It’s a busy schedule, but one that I’ve fine tuned over the years. The only potential wrinkle is that there is very little room for a second take if something is missed.

And that’s where the confidence comes in. Because when you have one shot at getting all your material recorded; when you have one shot at an interview; when you only have the time to do one take of the morning news bulletin or you irrevocably screw up the schedule for the rest of the day; you need to have confidence in yourself that your equipment will work, you can switch it on, start recording, and simply go for it.

I love the luxury of working at home in my studio, with the ability to retake a line, section or even the whole podcast, but at the same time there’s a certain daredevil in my psche that thrives in a high pressure environment that allows no mistakes whatsoever.

I know I can do it. I know it makes for a better podcast. That’s what I mean about confidence.

But it’s also courage to take chances, to go down an interview route where the outcome is unclear, because so much can change. Especially when interviewing up to 15 comics a day in a five hour window, it’s impossible to do the sort of preparation that I would do for a weekly 30 minute interview podcast with one guest. There’s a press release from their PR, some scribbled notes from their wikipedia page and website biography in my notebook, and that’s it. Open the microphone, welcome them to the show, and simply see what happens.

That’s what I mean by courage.

It’s a high wire balancing act that I do as often as I can. Anyone who’s done live TV or radio beyond spinning discs and introducing the bands will know exactly what I mean. There’s an energy that can’t be replicated in a studio or with a safety net, and I’d encourage everyone to take off the stabilizers and find out if you can balance the podcasting bicycle on your own.

Image Attribution: Vikki Spence

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