Voice, Style & Reading Out Loud

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I tend to write and speak more formally than most people. I don’t know if this is because of the way I was raised, because of my education, or just because of who I am. Sometimes I use big words that may make me sound over-educated and pretentious, but that is just who I am. I don’t mean that I am pretentious, I mean that is my unique voice and style. I am unique and so are you, but  let’s not confuse voice with style.

What is voice? Voice is a writer’s unique way of expressing themselves, the words they use, and the order in which they put those words. Voice is what gives a writer’s style an identifiable personality. For example, Steven King and Ernest Hemingway have two different personalities that are expressed through their writing voices.

Style is related to voice, but has its own characteristics. Style is the way you address a particular audience. For example, if you are having a conversation with a friend you use one style of speaking, usually less formal and full of slang and inside jokes. However, when you are giving a presentation your style of speaking becomes more formal and uses different jargon specific to that audience. Style consists of voice, word choice, and sentence fluency–the flow and rhythm of sentences and phrases, the sounds of the words, the patterns of the words, and number of words in each sentence.

Finding your voice can be very difficult for some people because they want to imitate other people and their way of writing. But your voice is your own. Try reading your writing out loud to hear how it sounds. I tell my students to do this because it really works. Hearing how your words sound out loud, listening to the flow and the vocabulary used gives you a different perspective on your writing. It is also a great way to proof your work for missing words, misspelled words, flow of words, word choice, and sentence choppiness.

I read a fantastic article by Jeff Goins that gives advice on how to find your voice. You can find that article here: 10 Steps to Finding Your Voice.

It may sound confusing, all this talk of voice, style, and fluency. It reminds me of that Charlie the Tuna commercial:

It’s a process that takes time to find and develop. Good luck and don’t give up.

Credibility and Coaching

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As a teacher, instructor, and writer, I try to set a good example in order to build trust and credibility. I consider myself more of a writing coach. I teach the steps to becoming a good writer.

Credibility is the act of conveying belief or trust in what you are saying. When you are writing, for instance, credibility comes from how well you back up the information that you are providing. Do you cite your sources? Do you add usable links to websites? Do you provide usable information that your readers can actually refer back to, or are you just writing to see yourself in print?

Once you build credibility, your reader’s trusts that you will continue to provide helpful information, and therefore they may be more likely to come back to your work again and again. In addition, in the future, they may actually pay for your work.

Establishing yourself as an expert in your field will improve your credibility. Publishing is one way that many business owners seek to establish and boost their credibility. Coaching also helps establish credibility. When you position yourself to coach others, you are essentially telling the world you are an expert in your niche. However, there is a difference between being an expert and being an authority.

Authority is achieved when you are considered an expert in your field. For example, Donald Trump is an authority on commercial real estate. Here, authority and credibility often go hand in hand.

Why Does It Matter?

Both authority and credibility are buying triggers. They motivate people to become customers. Robert Cialdini discusses them at length in his book The Psychology of Persuasion. Essentially, people are more likely to buy from someone they trust or consider an expert in their field.

How Coaching Fits Into This Equation

Imagine you are looking to train your dog. Perhaps your dog has begun to misbehave. You have hopped online to search for information about dog training. You find two websites that have helpful information. One site offers an information product, a video series, on training your dog. The other site offers a similar product and they offer coaching. Everything else being equal, you are more likely to buy from the website that offers coaching.

Why? Because coaching implies they have expert knowledge. In addition, if the website has testimonials supporting their coaching program, they have amplified their authority and credibility. They have set themselves apart from their competition.

You too can add a coaching program to your business and set yourself way above your competition. You will give your prospects and customers an impression that you have more authority and credibility simply because you coach. In addition, you will have more credibility and authority with your coaching customers, which results in loyalty and repeat purchases.

Finally, the media often consults businesses with a credible and authoritative presence as well. You may find that coaching opens up a completely new world of possibilities and marketing opportunities.

I do have one word of caution. Be careful. Everyone on the internet claims to be an expert or authority on something. Be sure to back up your claims with education, experience, and real-world applications.

5 Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid

Copywriting is an essential skill of any online marketer; and, as a writer, blogger, and author, you are your own marketer. Your ability to write good copy can make or break your business. When used correctly, can increase your conversions and bring your massive profits. However, if you commit these common mistakes, you will sabotage your business.

Here are 5 mistakes you should avoid:

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  1. Not Addressing Your Audience. Remember, the person reading your copy is a human being. Hence, treat your audience with respect and talk to them as though you would be talking to a friend on the phone. Always start your message with a “Hi friend” or simple greeting to let them know that there is a human connection.
  2. Selling Too Hard, Too Fast. How would you like it if you started your copy with, “Don’t buy this and you ears will fall off!”? Instead, try starting your copy by trying to relate with your audience’s problems and perhaps talk a little about yourself before going into the benefits of the product. Remember, in the long run the soft sell always wins.
  3. Screaming Into Their Face. Talking about some crappy headlines, one that comes to mind is the headline with EVERY SINGLE LETTER IN CAPS. This is not just bold, it’s literally screaming in their face and nobody likes that. Instead, only use capitals for the first letter of each word.
  4. Using Long (Spammy-Looking) Affiliate Links in Your Email Copy. Nobody trusts weird-looking links, your best bet would be to use a link cloaker (try http://www.acloaker.com/ for free) or a link shortening service such as Tinyurl.com or bit.ly.
  5. Talking Like a Robot. Nobody likes to listen to a machine. Instead, use a casual, conversational tone when dealing with your customers.

In short, avoid these mistakes and you’ll be on the right path to copywriting success.

Writing Effective Copy

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How can you or your company create a blog that outshines and outlasts every other blog? And how do you hypnotize readers to keep coming back? This article provides tips to write effective, attention-arresting blog copy and shows how you can develop reader and customer loyalty. As a teacher, I want to point out that many of these points can be used when writing speeches as well.

1. WRITE CONVERSATIONALLY.

The most engaging blogs speak to their audience in a casual and conversational tone. A big benefit of a blog is its ability to speak to readers in a way that is personal, candid and straightforward. Write your blog the same way you’d speak to your audience, face to face. The personal element is almost always what attracts people and keeps them coming back to your blog.

2. TELL STORIES.

Readers want to know things they already don’t know about your company. They want to know what the products, services, people, challenges, and innovations in your organization are really like. If you give them a glimpse of the inner workings, express your opinions boldly, and tell engaging stories, you will foster reader interest and loyalty. In a biography, both interviews and quotations usually are the most intriguing parts. Think of your company blog as a business biography. Personalize it with your unique thoughts and perspective.

3. MAKE IT PERSONAL.

Write about what you know. Draw from your expertise to tell the public about the finer points of your business. Detailing development ideas, setbacks, successes, and reactions reveals the human element and engages the reader. It’s fine to talk about new products and innovations, but blogs devoted mostly to marketing and promotion are the most boring and least popular of company blogs.

Make these topics more appealing to readers by framing such announcements with personal impressions and insights. Customers want to feel a kinship with the brand. Letting them in on the details of your business will make them feel part of your company culture and increase the chances of their lifetime loyalty.

4. UPDATE FREQUENTLY.

Once you have established a good reader base, offer new insights regularly to reward surfers for coming back. Not only does this offer more information and exposure, but it also reflects that your company is active and on top of things. Link to current articles from other sources to keep readers abreast of developments in your sector. A rarely updated blog feels stale and tired. This is not the reputation you want your company to have!

5. ADHERE TO COMPANY RULES.

You are personally responsible for whatever material you publish on your company blog. Respect the confidentiality of your organization and employees. Though you may express disagreements or concerns, do not make personal attacks or use the blog to air petty complaints. Do not reveal proprietary information; and avoid discussing revenue, share price, or other financial statistics.

Observe copyright law, and quote sources as you would in any other document. Make sure what you write in the company blog reflects the company’s goals. Keep in mind the goal of most company blogs is to increase visibility and promote the exchange of information. While most companies allow and encourage blogging on company time, you should avoid letting your writing time interfere with your regular workload.

6. WRITE GRAMMATICALLY.

Finally, make sure that what you write is grammatical. Your blog entries reflect your company’s image, and you want to give the best possible impression of the organization and its people. The Internet is rife with bad English. Though blogs tend to be relaxed in tone, it is also important to use standard English. Use a program like StyleWriter ( http://www.StyleWriter-USA.com ) or White Smoke ( http://www.WhiteSmokeSoftware.com ) to find and fix embarrassing grammar mistakes and help you write like a pro. As I have said in previous blog posts, there are also many free grammar, style, and spell-checkers available online (http://wp.me/p4wpJe-3I).

A blog is an excellent tool for promotion, communication, and information. The tips outlined here will help elevate your blog and generate traffic and interest. Good luck, and welcome to the wonderful world of blogging.