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Can You Change Writing Styles?

Posted by on Nov 4, 2010

Last week I was reading a guest blog post on another blog when the writer wrote one specific line: “Get to the point as quickly as possible, say it in as few words as possible, and you’re done.”


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And he was. For a guest post I was thinking how relatively short the piece was. Frankly, it didn’t have a lot of personality in it, but I overlooked that so I could think about it some over the weekend. I don’t remember the blog, but I’ve heard and read that statement many times before, and thought it deserved to be addressed.

I tend to believe that we all need to learn how to write for the moment and purpose. As you may know, I do a lot of writing, not only for myself but for others. When I write on this blog, you’re “hearing” my voice, the way I normally speak. When I write on my business blog, sometimes you don’t hear the same type of conversational voice, sometimes you do. It depends on the topic. Actually, even on this blog you’ll see that when I’m talking about something technical, or a step-by-step process, it’s pretty straight forward.

I write for a couple of different industry blogs. One is real estate, and for the most part it’s fairly flat writing because, well, there’s really nothing about real estate that allows for much conversation and deviation except for the news about the industry. Where I differ there is that I don’t just write about the news; I kind of give an opinion about that particular bit of news and then hopefully end on a happy note to encourage people to continue looking to buy. Overall though, it’s pretty straight forward; nothing extraneous.

That differs with a wedding blog I write. I have a lot of fun with that one. It’s a mix of news, recommendations, and opinions. I’ve gotten really good with that topic, and thus I have a lot of fun with it and I put a lot of personality into the writing. Yet it still remains upbeat at all times, as well as instructional. If you saw any of the posts on that blog (sorry, can’t share the link), you probably wouldn’t know it was me if you compared it to this blog because I use a different “voice” for it.

Same thing with writing papers for others, whether it’s white papers or term papers, so to speak. In those instances those papers are very straight forward, no personality whatsoever, because they’re purpose is to explain, not entertain. Also, I know that the person with a term paper is going to have to change up some of the language so it looks like they wrote it; it has to sound like them, and I don’t know those people to try to sound like them.

I think what makes a person’s blog different is how they decide to use their language to enthrall our mental ear so that we see them as unique, entertaining, and worth giving time to. On this blog, I often try to use a storytelling technique when I’m talking about things because I’ve found with my newsletter that people really started sharing it with others, and thus it started growing, when I went to that format. I think we all like stories; who here can honestly say they didn’t enjoy having their parents read stories to them as a child?

Of course, there are times when getting to the point is imperative. If you’re asked a certain question or want a certain answer, you don’t want someone to pontificate for 45 minutes then tell you what you want to know; you want your answer now. That’s one of my gripes with how many people conduct webinars and podcasts, and why the hairs on my neck go up with many of the free presentations that say they’re going to tell you how to do something, then spend hours telling you everything except that to get you to buy something from them. Promising something and not delivering; I hate that.

Just something to consider when you’re writing your blog. To me, this is imminently more important than sitting around thinking about SEO when writing your post. Boring keeps people away; entertain them, and they’ll keep coming back for more. Kind of like adding a video as an entertaining touch:

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26 Comments »

Patricia:

Hi Mitch
I really enjoy your blog otherwise I wouldn’t be over here every day to read what you have to share. For me, I write in a more relaxed way than when I first started my blog. Having come from a nursing background where I did a lot of research I was very tentative in sharing some of the findings I discovered about the lovely lavender. I cross-referenced everything! Although I love research I came to realise that I would bore my readers with just facts and figures. So I tend to write more conversationally now. As one wise very successful marketer reminded me early on….you are writing your posts for your readers, not for you! Wise words that I try to remember when crafting my posts.
Patricia Perth Aaaaaustralia

November 4th, 2010 | 11:00 AM
Mitch:

Great stuff Pat, and I love keeping you entertained. 🙂 A nursing background, eh? I’d have never figured that one out.

November 4th, 2010 | 2:18 PM

You’re right: The voice you use in one writing context may not be the same voice you’d want in a different context. It’s helpful to be able to switch gears when necessary, and to know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

It’s good to see that Willie Tyler and Lester are still at it. I remember seeing them on “Laugh-In” and other shows.

Wedding blog? Really?

November 4th, 2010 | 12:13 PM
Mitch:

I’ve always loved ventriloquists, and it seems to be going out of fashion, or at least was until the guy Terry Fador won America’s Got Talent a few years ago. I’m betting in business you probably aren’t as funny as you are on your blog, yet you retain the same personality in both places.

November 4th, 2010 | 2:19 PM

If it was a guest post, maybe that someone wasn’t really thinking about how to entertain or catch the reader with his “lecture”, his mind was at the link and maybe at the couple of visitors he will get from that post(although plain writing can only get you so many benefits).

I do agree with you on the fact that in blogging especially storytelling skills and entertaining your reader through writing is something essential (maybe this can even be that something which can get you to the top?)

November 4th, 2010 | 12:35 PM
Mitch:

Alex, it’s something I’m shooting for. Even when I’m talking about certain subjects, I try to cover them in kind of a storytelling format, although some things really don’t fit that. At those times I’m just direct about it and move on; nothing says all my posts have to be long, right? 🙂

November 4th, 2010 | 2:20 PM

I agree, writers need to keep in mind their audience, their audience’s purpose, and the nature of the article.

One of the reasons I like your blog so much is that it is very personal and has a conversational feel to it, which works perfectly for a blog like this. My blog is more technical, and I try to get straight to the point and to organize my writing so that readers can scan quickly and find key points.

November 4th, 2010 | 1:16 PM
Mitch:

Yes you do, Keith, and it works well for technical stuff, as I try to do as well. I also try to go the extra step with an explanation when I can because I’ve often found that when I see instructions in other places they leave things out that end up keeping me confused. You do a nice job.

November 4th, 2010 | 2:22 PM

I write as I speak. Or breathe. Sure, I can be brief, pithy and to the point, but guaranteed, even when I do go that route, you’ll still be laughing by the time you get to the end. 🙂

November 4th, 2010 | 2:33 PM
Mitch:

Barb, you sure do write as you speak, based on the video I watched of you. 🙂 One of these days I’m going to get a video camera; then world, watch out!

November 4th, 2010 | 3:47 PM

If blogs are full of technical stuff I can’t understand, I don’t read them. I only read yours because I know you and truly feel you write in such a way that I can comprehend it.

I do write in different styles to fit the appropriate blog I am writing for. My babyboomerbev blog speaks to family issues and other rants that everyday people can relate to. My Boomerworld is geared for boomers. My beverlymahone.com covers my work as a media professional.

If the blog doesn’t capture my attention in the first paragraph, I normally don’t stick around to read the rest.

November 4th, 2010 | 8:35 PM
Mitch:

You kill me, Bev! Sometimes I have to write the technical stuff because if I encounter a problem I know someone else is encountering the problem, and I hope to help them fix it. And I try to make it easy; that’s kind of the manager voice I used to have when I was training my staff, then as a consultant when I work on helping folks understand how to make what they do work better.

I could tell after reading your book that you write in different styles, because your book is written much differently than your blog. It does work wonders being able to switch voices for the audience you’re trying to reach.

November 4th, 2010 | 10:45 PM
Althea Garner:

Mitch,

Your real estate writing wouldn’t be ‘flat’ if you were passionate about the subject. There is SO much to real estate, especially if like me, you are on the marketing side. It’s exciting… it’s creative … it changes all the time and when you get into the legal side, it is downright mind-boggling! We won’t even discuss the political side of real estate…..

I write about real estate every day and my articles have been published in the newspapers and on real estate web sites and still I am asked to write more. The flow never ends.

Perhaps it’s only not ‘flat’ to me?
🙂

November 4th, 2010 | 10:10 PM
Mitch:

Actually Althea, it’s flat because that’s the nature of what I was asked to write. Send me an email and I’ll send you a link, then you can see at least one of the blogs I’m writing, and tell when I’m engaged and when I’m not.

November 4th, 2010 | 10:17 PM

At last, the words I have trying to hear. All writers have different styles of writing and I don’t believe that being short and straightforward is the best way to go. It all depends on how we entertain and get the emotional involvement of our readers.

My writing is a little bit flowery, but I believe in my style. 🙂

November 5th, 2010 | 12:40 AM
Mitch:

Walter, if we don’t believe in ourselves, then no one else will believe in us or our words. Glad you enjoyed the point of this post; good writing to you.

November 5th, 2010 | 1:49 AM

I agree that your writing style should fit what you are writing about. It should have some kind of character depending on what you are trying to accomplish or present. I tend to forget where I have read something to if it was dull and lifeless and tend to think more about those that kept me interested.

November 5th, 2010 | 1:05 AM
Mitch:

Karen, I’ve looked at so many blogs over the years and I know that the ones I go back to are the one that give me something, and most of the time it’s that something different quality that helps touch something in me to want to be moved to action in some fashion, even if it’s just wanting to comment.

November 5th, 2010 | 1:50 AM

I agree, but i have to admit that’s difficult to create a writing feedback, from my own experience this process requires a lot of feedback. As i see it, experience and feedback can make you better.

November 5th, 2010 | 7:07 AM
Mitch:

Mia, I’ve been wondering if you have a blog to share, or is it in a language most of us wouldn’t know?

November 5th, 2010 | 11:19 AM
Kissie:

Hey, I’m so mad because I commented on this post (or was it another) (yeah, it was another and I lost it when I clicked on the dumb arrow to select which post I wanted to include .. it was already late in the night and I was heated that I couldn’t retrieve it).

I digress, are you saying you have a “wedding” blog? Can I get the link. My oldest daughter is getting married 11/11/11. (save all the smart/sarcastic comments for me … I’ve got it covered)But I seriously think she might enjoy that … hey, according to what I want to “do by 50” – I should enjoy it too!

You may already know this about me but I like to say what I have to say quickly before you (the readers) get bored with it. I want people to not give up halfway in and until I think I’m writing well enough to keep you around then it will be my style … strength not length.

Yes I like stories but I don’t like novels, they’re too time consuming. Maybe if I win or someone gives me an e-Reader, I’ll change my mind but between Reader’s Digest and Twitter, I don’t have the fortitude for long reading.

November 5th, 2010 | 10:50 AM
Mitch:

That’s funny Kissie. Send me an email (look at my contact page) and I’ll share the link with you. As to the rest, well, I’ve written on that topic a few times here as well. Some people like short, some like long, some don’t really care as long as they’re either entertained or informed. I don’t change my writing style to please anyone unless I’m being paid for it. but I’m smart enough to know situational writing. I think like Mozart; I write what I have to say, then I’m done. Sometimes it just takes a few more words. 🙂

November 5th, 2010 | 11:22 AM

I write what I think most of the time, Mitch. I am not that adept with changing voices though since I only write for my business. I just hope that I am engaging enough for my target audience not to leave my site without reading my posts.

Thanks for this.

– Wes –

November 6th, 2010 | 12:01 AM
Mitch:

No problem Wes. If you only have to write one style all the time, then it’s all good. Someone like me has to have many different ways of writing, and luckily I can change up at will.

November 6th, 2010 | 1:20 AM
Carl:

I agree with you Mitch, what makes blog different is the person style of writing. I think the “KISS” principle can be applied for blogs and businesses, write the way people to understand. This is great power.

November 7th, 2010 | 6:38 PM
Mitch:

I do that for the most part, Carl, especially on blogs. I also think it works well.

November 7th, 2010 | 6:43 PM