Finding Your Voice

There are endless combinations of words.

But only a few will make an impact.

Even less will truly represent ‘you’.

Business woman speaking cellphone during a work day

When working with clients I try to cover all the creative bases in our initial discussions using an informal check list to help me shape my writing. It’s a framework, a roadmap, and a textual GPS.

Existing materials as a guide

It’s useful for me to see samples of your existing written content, so I can figure out the rules and styling you are working with. For example, do you use US or UK spelling, casual or formal forms, numeric or worded numbers, imperial or metric measures, cardinals or ordinals? Do you prefer quotes to be in single or double parenthesis? Do you really care?

Any existing materials can be scanned, emailed or posted to me; large files can be sent using a program like WE TRANSFER. I welcome them all.

The headings below outline the variables. Don’t be intimidated by what appear complex choices; intuition usually guides me when discussing options with my clients.

Target Audience

I may encourage you to leave your comfort zone to voice yourself as clearly as possible.

That’s part of learning to communicate with the widest possible audience.

It’s part of the process of leaving preconceptions behind and focusing on your market; everyone responds to different stimuli, written and spoken.

Style

Clipped, relaxed, witty or reassuring? Assertive, humble or confronting?

A website by a gung-ho firm of lawyers will read quite differently to a wellness therapy site.

What’s your style, and how comfortable are you leaving it? Have you already established an identity? Or are you searching for the new ‘you’ with a change of business character?

Methodology

New age or traditional? Spartan or indulgent? Look at the way Apple speaks on a page: full stops after few words, breaks at every turn. It’s not English as we know it, but it's powerful.

Will that work for you, or do you prefer to seduce your clients with longer-sentenced reassurances?

Flaunting the Rules

Commas after ‘and’? ‘And’ after full stops? ‘Which’ or ‘that’, ‘although’ or ‘though’, ‘oldest’ or ‘eldest’?

Answer: in most cases it doesn’t matter and conventions are flexible today. It’s a matter of being consistent and finding a format that suits you.

The Platform

Website pages can’t be written in normal prose. The e-world works upside down but many domain owners still don’t know it.

Flyers are a bit like websites: quick on the eye, short on attentions spans, with similar wording rules.

Brochures, on the other hand, have room to draw the audience in and tantalise with half-explanations which seduce readers to satisfaction in the final pages.

Matching the writing to the platform is essential. It’s still your unique message but tailored to a particular page.

Body language, tone of voice and mood.

Do you want your text to mirror your character, or create a business avatar?

‘Hi, I’m Juliet and in my new florist, Petals from Heaven, I wish to share my life-long love of flowers with you. I’m just starting out on this venture and so would appreciate your custom and recommendations to friends at home and work.’

Or: ‘Petals from Heaven’ florist is open! With years of experience, we provide unique bouquets and flower-arranging presentations for your home or business event. Spread the word!’

There is no right or wrong. But which one sits more comfortably with you? Meek or assertive; both can be seductive and effective.

Personal or Impersonal

Juliet had to make this decision at outset. Do you want to put your personal ‘self’ on the line, or sit behind a corporate window?

The decision you make must run throughout your content if credibility is to be maintained.

Dress Code

It’s useful if I have some idea of the ‘dress code’ for outfitting my writing. Will you use bullet points extensively, feature indents, headers and different sized fonts on each page?

These are useful in breaking up text and easy on the readers eye. When I can visualise how a page may look, whether on the web or in a corporate brochure, I can more effectively organise my wording.