How should you sound in your blog posts?
What kind of personality do you want to present?
Just saying “be yourself” is, in my opinion, often terrible advice. You may first have to discover yourself before you can be yourself. Most people’s “selves” need a bit of sprucing up. And you may think that “being yourself” is akin to being uninhibited or informal. That could lead to more problems than it solves.
I’d like to suggest that what may be better (especially if you’re just starting out with blogging) is to decide what kind of personality you want to present, and then deliberately try to portray that personality in your blog posts and pages (especially the home page and about page). I’m not saying be fake. I’m saying pick something and focus on it as a way to into this thing we call “voice” in writing.
So, I’ve come up with seven different blogging “personalities.” If you feel unsure about who you’re supposed to be, exactly, when you write a post for your blog, try one of these on and see how they fit.
You’re the friend, the confidant. You’re talking to your reader as if you and she (or he) were sitting down for a drink. Your language is how you normally speak. As a friend and confidant, you only trying to help your friend. You know things she doesn’t and you don’t want to see her make mistakes. The confidant dishes out the inside information, the secrets, in a conspiratorial tone. If you don’t actually know any inside information or secrets, you’ll have a hard time presenting this personality. SEO Theory is a good example of this personality.
Teachers present the “how to” in a step-by-step way. They know what you need to learn, in what order, and what pitfalls you’ll encounter along the way. They know how to present tutorial information effectively. Personality makes a big difference, because there are probably thousands of others who can teach what you teach. You may have a mental picture of a teacher as being pedantic, but if you think back over the teachers you’ve had in your life that you liked, probably none of them were like that. A good teacher loves to teach, so you’ll want to show enthusiasm for your subject. Make Use Of is a great example of a teacher personality on a blog.
The comedian can be hard to pull off, but it’s one of the most magnetic personalities of all. Humor in writing is difficult and consistency is key. If you become known as a funny person, people don’t like it when you’re suddenly not funny unless it’s very deliberate and rare and meaningful. One guy I know who manages to present the comedian personality well is Johnny B. Truant. Kris from Pretty All True is often not funny at all… she’s hilarious.
Stories are a powerful way to get your ideas and information across. A common misconception is that you yourself had to experience the stories you tell, but that’s not true at all. You can tell stories about what happened to other people, and you can even just make them up. Making up whacky and unusual stories is a great way to stand out. Catharine Caine often has great stories as a way to get her point across. I’d also give Kris from Pretty All True a second recommendation as a storyteller (no, these personality types are not mutually exclusive).
One of the best books I’ve ever read on the art of effective story-making is Made to Stick (affiliate link).
Whereas the teacher shows you how, the philosopher asks why? The goal of the philosopher is to provoke discussion and get people thinking, rather than instruction or informing. Good old-fashioned editorializing and speculation are the bread and butter of the philosopher personality. TechCrunch manages to deliver this on this quite often. They report on events but they also have very strong opinions about them. As with teachers, people have a stereotype about philosophers as being out of touch or stuffy. Feel free to blow this stereotype out of the water.
What personality are you?
It’s worth mentioning again that these are definitely not mutually exclusive: you can mix and match. But it’s worth taking a look at your blogging and ask yourself what personality do you see in it… and what personality do you want to see in it? Because if you have a personality in mind, that gives you something to check against when you’re writing and editing your posts.
What personality do you think you are on your blog? (And to “eat my own dog food,” I’ll share with you how I think of myself: teacher/philosopher combination.)