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How to Create a Dynamic Voice and Add Personality to Your Writing

Henrietta talking to her dog ArthurYeah, yeah.

Every blogging expert tells us to add personality to our writing. And to develop a distinct voice.

But how exactly?

In a face-to-face situation you use body language and intonation to show how you feel and who you are.

You can speak quietly and choose your words carefully. You can use wild gestures to stress your points. You can whisper to share a secret. *Shhh*

But in writing you can only choose your words.

And compose them into sentences and paragraphs.

How can you show your personality? And have a distinct voice?

It might be simpler than you think. Just like when you talk, your personality shines through in how you write and what you write.

Authority is rather dull

Everyone tells us to build authority. But authority reminds me of dusty professors and boring text books. Devoid of personality.

If you want to connect with your readers you shouldn’t be authoritative at all times. Don’t put yourself on a pedestal. Admit your fears, failures, or weaknesses. And make a little fun of yourself.

Think about your best friends or favorite colleagues. You enjoy having a chat with them because they can talk about more than their specialism. You know I love cycling and good food, don’t you? You might even remember that a long time ago I was a puking tour guide in China.

By sharing snippets of your life, you change from a one-dimensional authority into a more interesting personality.

But don’t become a blabbermouth

Readers don’t have the patience to hear you rambling on. And they don’t want to hear too many random facts about your life.

To avoid blabbing on, watch the flow of your content. Focus each post on one big topic.

Most of my blog posts are simple lists or how-to posts. They follow a logical path summing up tips about one issue or explaining a number of steps to take. I don’t always number them – that would be boring.

The flow of your content shows whether you’re muddleheaded, ploddingly predictable, or somewhere in-between.

Pay attention to rhythm

Rhythm impacts the mood of your writing – just like in music.

You have two main ways of playing music: legato and staccato.

When you play legato, the notes are longer, and each note blends with the next one. No pauses exist between the notes. When you play staccato, each tone is short and stops abruptly. The long tones of legato make music flow fluidly, almost dreamily. Staccato is more fiery. It wakes you up and draws attention to each individual note.

To change the mood in a musical piece, a legato playing style can be interrupted by a few notes of staccato. The same is true in writing. When you only write long sentences, you slowly lull your reader to sleep. By interrupting a calming flow with a few ultra-short sentences you attract attention to your point. You wake your reader up.

To get a feel for rhythm, read your post aloud. When you find yourself gasping for air, your sentences and paragraphs are probably too long. Hack sentences in two. Add more periods. Or more commas.

Short and broken sentences add energy to your writing.

Go beyond word choice to set the mood of your writing

Are you happy, deliriously happy, or fucking happy?

Your choice of words sets the tone of your writing. Do you swear a lot? Do you use everyday expressions to set a conversational tone? Or do your words sound soothing like susurrous, fluffy, and furry?

Plundering a thesaurus can help you adjust the tone of your writing, but metaphors provide a more fascinating way to add personality:

  • Happy as a 32-year-old speed skater winning his first Olympic gold medal
  • Happy as a baby panda rolling in the snow
  • Happy as a toddler with chocolate all over her face

Be careful. A clichéd metaphor—happy as Larry—immediately kills your voice. Good metaphors are unique and paint a vivid image. Kids, animals, and sportsmen can almost always help you come up with a unique metaphor.

The truth about your online personality

Adding a dash of personality doesn’t mean just being yourself.

You can choose which part of you you want to show and which part of you you prefer to hide. You can choose to share your angry self, your insecure self, or just your happy self.

You’re in charge.

You can find your own rhythm. You can choose your own words. You can show your most dynamic and most entertaining YOU.

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Comments

  1. Sometimes I think we are sisters.
    Kitty Kilian recently posted…Hoe schrijf je een effectieve twitterbio?My Profile

  2. Henneke,
    This is very good advice and something that I need to work on in my own writing. Thank you.
    Marc recently posted…The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Blog Monetization StrategyMy Profile

  3. Excellent advice, as always, Henneke.

    And thank you for reminding us all of your puking tale ;-)
    Must… resist… urge… to make… lame pun… with Peking.

    What I like to do with clichéd metaphors is give them a spin. The reader recognises the cliché and sees the twist. It’s like adding some unusual spices to an all too familiar dish, giving it that slightly different taste and making it fresh and interesting again.

    My personal challenge is to not overdo it, to avoid coming across as “too smart”.
    Bart Schroeven recently posted…3 major benefits of meditationMy Profile

    • Yep, that’s a good way to do it. Great idea!

      And also a good point about not overdoing it – only use metaphors when you want to make a strong point. People don’t want to read a new metaphor in each paragraph because content becomes too cumbersome to read. Plus you get all sorts of vivid images fighting for attention.

      Thank you for stopping by again, Bart :)

  4. Henneke,

    Your blog is soooo good and so focused, you’re starting to annoy me.

    As is often the case, I’m doing some work on the same subject. In the case of “voice,” I’ve found it to be a struggle. Now I know where to get the lesson. Just a killer piece. Another killer piece.

    Your stuff is dominating my swipe file.

  5. Great article Henneke, thank you for sharing!

  6. Honestly, I don’t have writing rhythm yet. But, since reading your post, I must find one. I will find and create my writing legato and staccato. Thank you, Henneke.
    Iphon Panjaitan recently posted…If You Think Valentine Day is a Day of Love, Read This and Recheck Your ThoughtMy Profile

    • Try reading your copy aloud. It really helps. And if you’re struggling to find the right rhythm, read other texts aloud, too – poems, newspaper articles, or other blog posts. By studying the rhythm of others, you can find your own rhythm.

      Good luck! Let me know how you get on?

  7. Hassan Rashid says:

    I’m back here! ;) (@HassanR56)

    I JUST LOVED THE POST! Thanks SO much!
    The truth is, if you’re passionate and in mood of writing, then you’ll just imagine what’ll happen next! ;)

    Expressing yourself in writing is really hard, and you’ve got some good tips to get us going!

    Thanks Henneke!
    I’m happy as Lar… uh, no: I’m happy as a 15-year-old making his first sale!

    • Yep, “happy as a 15-year-old making his first sale” is much better than happy as Larry :)

      Thank you for stopping by, Hassan.

  8. Thank you. As usual the post addressed an immediate struggle. I have been mulling the idea of using the word F… in one of my headlines. But it is so not me. That’s the beauty of it, it would shock people. But, then again it would be un-congruent with my voice. Any thoughts?
    Lori from http://africainside.org/

    • Yes, it shocks people – especially if it’s out of character. I wasn’t sure about using the f-word in this post – it’s the first time I’ve used it on my site; but it kind of made to point well and I didn’t feel it would particularly shock people in this context.

      You need to have a good reason to shock people, otherwise it’s a cheap trick.

  9. I HATE that there is essentially two forms of writing; short, sweet and to the point. Or, the kind of writing people enjoy reading that can still serve a purpose (other than to entertain). Just a thought I had at the time.

    • Well, yes, there are many forms of writing, and it can be difficult to find the form that suits you best. Try to find a couple of bloggers you like and then emulate their writing styles.

      Thank you for stopping by, Thomas.

  10. Nokthula Madondo says:

    Hi Henneke. Thanks for tackling this subject. I am a beginner blogger and I love reading your posts. This one was a bit skimpy (I am so used to your long posts). But loved it nonetheless. Here’s my question: this whole letting your personality shine through your writing is difficult for me because I have a quirky sense of humour and I have no filter.

    My dilemma, when to know when you have crossed the line???…

    I have read posts with bloggers swearing like sailors and it put me off, I unsubscribed immediately. And my fear is shooting my mouth off (in the name of personity) and then scare my readers and clients away.

    • Humor is really tricky as it’s so difficult to know whether you got it right or not. That’s why comedians test out their jokes.

      You could either decide to tone it down to stay safe or ask a friendly reader to read your post before you publish.

      It’s really difficult to talk in generalities as you don’t want to become bland either and sometimes it’s okay to scare away the audience that’s not right for you.

      I hope this helps?

  11. Hahaha! I Almost dropped my iPhone into my soup when I came across your F bomb. A little warning next time. It’s a good thing I was between slurps.

    • Ouch, I’m so sorry. Glad you didn’t drop your iPhone as you might have sued me ;-)

      You’ll probably be safe for another year… at least!

  12. I think my iPhone is losing its mind. It did not include my :-) with my comment. That makes me look like a meanie. Also, it cut my last sentence. The paragraph with Big F encapsulates your post. Now I need to reheat my soup. Bye.

    • Don’t worry. When you finish your comment with “between slurps”, you can’t be a meanie in my book.

      Hope you enjoyed your soup! :)

  13. Great post Henneke,
    I love the idea of approaching your writing like you would a piece of music. Because after all, it does have ebbs, flows, bangs and crashes etc! I think what we also all need to keep in mind is that finding your voice takes time and quite a bit of experimentation. At some point you’ll hit the voice that fits you like your favourite pair of jeans – it’s comfortable, familiar, worn in just the right places and makes you feel good when you put it on.
    shauna recently posted…Why good writers ARE worth itMy Profile

    • Ha yes, I love your comparison with a favorite pair of jeans. I’m having to wriggle to put it on, but once it’s on, it’s comfy :)

      Thank you for taking the time to stop by, Shauna.

  14. I’ve started sharing myself more on my blog, writing more personal stories and feelings. When that happens, I get more negative comments or emails. It is expected. But it is my blog, and I think although we would like more “social proof”, but it is important that we do not write to just please others. It is interesting that I upset some people :)
    Lucy Chen recently posted…What Can We Learn From The Valentine’s Day Gift My Husband Gave MeMy Profile

    • I don’t please everyone either. That’s part of blogging and marketing. You only need to appeal to your core audience – that’s if you blogging from a business perspective. Personal journaling is a whole different game of course.

      • Of course, personal journaling and blogging for business seem quite different. Though I LOVE how Penelope Trunk writes so much about herself, her personal stories, yet always ties back to her topic of career advice. It’s amazing how she sort of combines the two.
        Lucy Chen recently posted…Life Drawing DogsMy Profile

  15. I have found a good way to get my voice and personality into a post is to write it as fast as I can without stopping or editing. From there I can look back and edit out the ramblings but keep my personality in the words. I learned to do this from writing dialogue in fiction. Just an idea
    Blake recently posted…To Be Sticky You Need To Be EngagingMy Profile

  16. Thanks Henneke, for showing how to do it. Getting your personality into writing is easier said than done.

    • Henneke says:

      Yes, I found that many writers talk about personality in your writing, but hardly anyone explains how to do it.

      Thank you for stopping by!

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