Date of publication: 2017-09-01 10:26
6. AVOID A PREDICTABLE TREATMENT OF YOUR SUBJECT.
In the first draft you write what people expect you to write—what you expect yourself to write. “I wanted a car.” The tone becomes predictable. Now, during your revision, go deeper. Seek out the harder truths. It’s in the second, third, fourth draft that you say something we don’t expect you to say, something even you didn’t expect you to say. When you get tired of being nice. “I wanted a car so I could drive out of my marriage.” Surprise yourself, and you will surprise your reader.
Scottish beer company BrewDog identifies its story as one of rebellion. Tired of the beers that dominated the market, BrewDog set about creating something different &ndash a great craft beer made in an eco-brewery. In doing this, it claimed a certain kind of punk culture, describing itself as having an &lsquo anti-business business model&rsquo .
How formal do you want your tone to be? This will vary over different platforms and contexts so it&rsquo s good to identify, firstly, an average level and, secondly, the extent to which you want to &lsquo dial&rsquo up and down the degree of formality.
If you could have any celebrity as a spokesperson for your company, who would it be and why? This exercise helps to personify what you&rsquo re trying to achieve.
And of course any publication you want to write for will have its own tone, which it would be smart for you to try to match. Notice how quietly all New Yorker profile pieces begin, while Utne Reader favors unconventional and unexpected viewpoints that challenge the status quo.
Stories don&rsquo t have to involve accounts of life and death. They can be found in the details of everyday living &ndash those tiny wins or losses that can transform your mood, your day or even your life.
In its company tone of voice guide, MailChimp explains the importance of words shaping how users feel (rather than simply what they think or know). Embracing colloquial, everyday language helps people to forge an emotional connection with the text. Exclamatory remarks such as &lsquo woohoo&rsquo , &lsquo whoa&rsquo and &lsquo wowzers&rsquo convey the feeling of excitement, for example.
Using simple language can also inspire more of a sense of trust and intimacy with your audience. Having said that, take the dictum too far and you might end up patronising your audience with babyish language. So what&rsquo s the answer? I propose that technical terms can be left unchanged if they are familiar and understood by the vast majority of your audience. In other words, don&rsquo t change something for the sake of it, change it to ease otherwise difficult communication.
A brand&rsquo s tone of voice should be distinctive, recognisable and unique. This may seem like a tall order until we consider the use of our own language in everyday life. We all employ language - both written and spoken - in our own way. Of course, culture and dialect are the most significant factors dictating our approach to words. But within these, we each have our own idiosyncrasies, favourite expressions, inflections, pace and so forth.
O nce you have identified your company values, you can start thinking about your personality. (If values are what you say, personality is how you say it.)
You will choose different tones for different subjects, of course, just as you would dress differently for a date than for an interview. But stay away from changing tones within a piece. One minute you’re riffing comically on Uncle Frank’s parade of girlfriends, and the next, the reader is caught chortling when you shift to Uncle Frank’s abuse of his daughter. Or the thriller shifts from a slumped body in an alley to the detective’s girlfriend shopping for bridal gowns, and suddenly we’re in a romance. (Notice, by the way, how many genres actually have tone in their names: thriller, romance, mystery, horror. …)
Off-topic tangents. You know how it goes: You start out writing about the president’s pooch, and by the homestretch you’re discoursing disdainfully on the state of our economy and what a boob the president is—as if people are lining up to hear your thoughts on that. Stick to the subject at hand.
You can detect tone problems in your own work simply by noting where your attention wanders as you reread it. Or, better, by reading it aloud. When you’re ready to revise a piece, try reading it to someone else, or asking someone to read it to you. You won’t have to search for awkward or boring or whiny parts—you’ll hear them.
This must start with the obvious yet easily forgotten question: what is it you want to tell the world? It is only once you define the core purpose of your communication that you can start to build your tone of voice.