Blogging: Don’t Lose Your Voice!
Find it. Keep it. And develop its many dimensions!
“Voice” is what sets you apart as a writer. Every one of us has a writing voice, even if we can’t write. It is the written expression of the voice we use to speak and sing, and it is more. My father, for example, could only write his name. Yet, I could hear his writing voice. Unfortunately, he never had the education to set it free. My father was a Generation 1.5 kid, and only made it to fourth grade before having to enter the coal breakers.
But I always had a great sense that both my mother and father wanted to learn how to write and express their feelings deeply. Today, there is no limit to how we can do that if we seize that Promethean power, that is, education.
And we can take more liberties when we write, at least in some genres. Blogging certainly falls into that category.
I am a journalist, and I know that my voice should be beige yet bold in a news story. In fact, that can be a pretty tricky feat. We need to catch the readers’ attention in the lede; however, at the same time, we can’t lapse out of neutral reportage.
Yet, I believe that my voice still comes through in my hard news stories through my word choices and sentence structures.
Several years ago, I was a writing a feature story for a prestigious college magazine here in Pennsylvania. My editor was a graduate of the college – and an editor at The Washington Post. She was a brilliant woman and a tough editor. In all, she took issue with the sentence structures in my first draft. My sentences were too complex!
She coached me to write very simple sentences!
What a wake-up call this was for me. In the college classroom, my job was to teach students how to weave complex sentences, often with daring punctuation! And then I faced this editor from a historic newspaper unraveling all that I had taught my students for two decades!
Really, it felt like a beating.
Also, you may have noticed that my paragraphs often consist of a single sentence rather than a big block of text. In fact, this is what the average reader can handle. There is lots of air between sentences, white space, and this way of writing is easier on tired eyes and brains. Yet, it is also far different from what we find in belles-lettres essays.
So, we can come to this conclusion: A blog is usually not a belles-lettres essay!
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
We have to write blogs that our readers can navigate. If they can’t read them, they will quickly grow frustrated and move on to the next blogger.
This usually means that we have to write at a sixth to eighth grade level.
At the same time, this does not necessarily mean that we are dumbing things down. Rather, I prefer to look at the task as making messages clear.
Forging an authentic voice can be difficult we need we need to write at such grade levels. Yet, through careful word choices, and by keeping our sentences simple but not humdrum, we can communicate effectively.
Now, in future blogs, watch me break some of my own rules. Language and readership are constantly changing. So, I see all of these rules as written in quicksand!
Copyright 2017 by Maria Jacketti