You’re a Web writer, so you should be comfortable not only with your own voice, but also confident in developing, and then using, different voices when you write for clients.
But what’s a “voice”?
Writer’s voice is the literary term used to describe the individual writing style of an author.
Essentially, “voice” in terms of a website, is the site’s style — its personality, and point of view.
Discerning voice is easy; you’re already an expert at it. Let’s look at a couple of sites and see whether we can gauge the site’s voice; its personality and viewpoint.
Scroll down the page. Check out the images, the headlines, and a paragraph or two of the text. This will give you a pretty good idea of the website’s voice.
So, what’s the site’s personality and viewpoint? Informal, but authoritative, with a dose of shock thrown in, viz: “My Last Death Threat In 2011”, alongside an image of a noose.
Let’s look at another site; we’ll stay with tech.
So, what’s the personality and viewpoint? Casual, but again, authoritative — Tidbits inspires trust: notice the “21 years” in the logo. Scroll down the page, and you’ll see Tidbits is written for the hardcore Mac user.
This brings us to the basic point when you’re develop a voice for a website: the voice depends on the audience.
Voice: write for an audience
Think about your own voice. What speaking style do you use when you’re talking to your parents, to your close buddies, and to your kids? Chances are, you’ll speak very differently to your parents, than you do to your closest friends. You’ll choose different topics, and you’ll tailor your presentation to your audience.
It’s the same on the Web: the voice you develop for a website depends on the site’s audience.
Go back to Techcrunch, and read one of the articles. Then read an article from Tidbits. Write down three differences you can see.
(This is a very profitable exercise. It’s one you MUST complete before you try to write for a website, or a magazine. Established publications have established voices. Before you query a website, or magazine, KNOW the voice, and be certain that you can emulate it. An editor will forgive a lot, if you can write in the site’s or magazine’s voice.)
Writing Web content from scratch: start by choosing the voice
You’ve been asked to write the content for a website.
Research the site’s audience first; then decide on the voice. I tend to do this intuitively. Once you know the audience choosing a voice is simple. This is even easier if the audience is online, you can “hear” its voice on forums.
Big tip: remember that in general, Web audiences prefer a more intimate tone, and hence voice, than print audiences.
Online, people skim, they don’t read as they do when they read a print publication. You’ll write with more headings, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs. This makes for a different tone; you can’t help it.
Action tip: choose five sites, and discover the voice on each site
Is the voice formal, casual, frank, authoritative — other? Decide. There’s no correct answer; voice is subjective.
Once you’ve done this exercise, you’ll approach Web writing — and all other writing — differently. You’ll realize that choosing a voice (personality and viewpoint) makes the writing easier.
If you’re writing for a client, send the client a “voice” document with the content. Your client needs to know you’ve written in a specific voice, and why.
Have fun experimenting with voice. 🙂
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Writing jobs are everywhere. If you want to make $5 for writing 500 words, you can get these jobs all day long. No searching necessary. These gigs are plentiful because the Web’s built on words. If you can string a few words together, you can make money.
I’ve got nothing against these jobs. Sadly however, there are two major challenges with these kinds of gigs: you’ll burn out, and they’re a dead end…
You can write less than you’re writing now, and get paid much more. Get the dream writing jobs you want, at top rates.
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