Write Like Yourself

Let’s face it: most people can’t write their way out of a paper bag. Further, most bloggers are boring, most journalists are so heavily edited that any personality they’ve added to a story has long since been weaned out by the editorial process.

I want to let you in on a secret, though: it’s not really that people are boring, but that too many have been taught that you shouldn’t write the same way you talk. I blame our educational system, actually, with those 5th grade teachers who drilled us on adverbs, pronouns and the minutia of grammar, coupled with too many boring, tedious academic books that we all suffered through while in college.

Instead, I suggest to you that the best way to write clear, coherent, engaging and enjoyable content is to write the way you speak, to recognize your spoken voice and pour it out onto the virtual page of your computer screen and weblog.

How The Heck Do I Learn How To Be Less Formal?

The first step is to give yourself permission to be imperfect. I assure you that it’s okay to add what I call ‘verbal fillers’ like “um”, and “ah” and “hmmm”, but even without that, relaxing and writing with a more informal, less structured style will prove a great benefit to both you and your readers.

Let me give you a quick demonstration of verbal fillers, shall I?

So let’s say that you want to learn how to write like you speak? Well, y’know, if you really listen to dialog, you’ll quickly realize that people, um, you’ll notice that there are all sorts of mistakes… um, imperfections… errors people make when they’re, um, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, how people really talk, versus what we get in print and the insipid, stilted artificial dialog in movies and on TV, um, television.

That’s a bit much on the verbal imperfections scale, I admit, but I hope you can see the point I’m getting at? (and, yes, it’s okay to end sentences with a preposition!) If you want your readers to enjoy your prose, to find what you’re writing compelling and engaging, then I strongly encourage you to experiment with adding imperfections to your next blog entry.

Being completely informal won’t work for all types of writing, but the general idea that I’m trying to get to here (or “attain”, if you prefer) is that good writers have “a voice”, a distinctive style that both helps them communicate quickly and accurately and helps you understand their thoughts and ideas. There’s no reason in the world why you shouldn’t also have a distinctive voice.

Ya Got Any Tricks For Me To Learn This?

The trick I’ve used to learn how to cultivate and write with a distinctive voice is to read what I write out loud rather than just sub-vocalize it as I write. Not only is this a great way to learn which sentences are too long or need commas or other breaks so you can breath (a skill that can’t be overrated!) but it also helps you “hear” which of your sentences are awkward and stilted rather than flowing and relaxed.

Let me wrap this up with an exercise for you: next time you write a blog entry, get to the last word then take ten or fifteen minutes to do something completely unrelated, leaving it unpublished. After you’ve had a chance to switch gears, go back to your editing screen, scroll to the top, and read what you’ve written out loud to your cat, the far wall, your cube-mate, whomever. Does it really sound like you talking?

Change, tweak, edit, add imperfections, alter your prose until it sounds at least somewhat similar to your speech patterns and read it out loud again. Iterate on that two or three times then, finally, when you’re ready, push that “publish” button.

Practice this discipline for a few weeks and before you know it you’ll find that you’re finding your writer’s voice, your blog has become more accessible and enjoyable reading, and your readers are becoming loyal fans.

Sweet!


Having encouraged you to be more informal with your writing, I do not suggest that you toss out the proverbial baby with the bathwater here. Basic grammatical structure, matching verb tense, spelling and punctuation are all important and do help you communicate effectively. I’m simply encouraging that you play with your prose to create something that’s more reflective of who you are and how you really communicate. Capiche?

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36 thoughts on “Write Like Yourself

  1. Never rely on a cat for an honest opinion. Reading to your dog might work, just make sure you are not holding a cookie. Dogs will say yes to anyone with a cookie. But reading aloud is an excellent suggestion, along with hitting the [Pause] button before clicking [Publish]. Ask, “Does that sound like me?” as well as “Is that what I want to say?”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reading my stuff out loud helps me edit and keep it on the informal side. And – imagining I’m talking with someone. Sometimes I talk to myself in the mirror. Thanks for writing and reading.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you for this advice!
    I was a bit worried about those “imperfections” of my posts, but now I’m relieved and, what’s more, I get pure excitement from being able to freely express my random thoughts through my blogs 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I find this article to be true. I just asked my office mate to look into my blog and give me her take on it. She simply said I can hear you talk while I was reading. Then I saw your article and I can’t agree with you more. Good job 👍🏼

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Really enjoyed reading your post! Now a days reading blogs or articles has become so monotonous as all of them sound same. Social media is sigh of relief here as it gives freedom to the writer to be natural and comfortable in their skin. Gradually we will get to see many authors pouring their hearts out in their own words without being too cautious about keeping the language formal and unnatural.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I struggle so much with finding the balance between sounding too relaxed, and too uptight. I know I can write beautifully and with technique, but I don’t always speak that way, and I find it easier to write in the style of my natural speech. A friend of mine said, “Just be you.” I guess that’s what you’re saying here. I will keep working at not changing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Yes, I believe in the same. People I think not trying to find solutions or expert views but when they read they want someone who can make them feel being heard, where they can connect … In my writings, I always follow my heart and never write anything preachy or artificial just to attract people. Every blogger should remember and hear the reader in himself.

    Like

  7. Omg yes. I already do this. Sort of. Haha. Because my job is so multi-levelled… it’s hard to be consistent because dude, people read or learn or absorb information differently! It’s like.. I don’t always know what I’m doing. I just go and do it. With my writing, I don’t know if I’m reacting to something, trying to teach a lesson, tell a story, or whatever.
    Not until afterwards and I reread it. But when. I reread it I second guess myself and never publish any thing because I am fear the “permanency” of the internet. I’ve always kind of just had my words and shit twisted and misread… So.. I’m scared of putting myself online for that same reason and having my bullshit immortalised on the digital plane.

    Like

  8. I’m glad you added the last paragraph. It really annoys me when there is no basic punctuation. I also find long, rambling sentences difficult to read.

    Like

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