Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Learning To Blog II: Find Your Blog Voice

I'm wanting to be a better job of being a blogger, and have turned my efforts into an experiment to see how I've done so far. Details are in the first post of this series.

In this part, Harvey of Bad Example tells how to find one's blog voice. Here are some excerpts from his post, with my comments. [Read the entire post here.]
Finding Your Blog Voice

Good blogging isn't so much about what you say, it's about how you say it. ... (It's) about how to make your typewritten words sound like your speaking voice.

You're not writing a thesis, you're talking to friends. Even if the topic is serious, it'll be better-received by your audience if it's written in a friendly, casual manner.

I don't know about friendly, but I certainly think I've got he "casual" part down. I do think that I write (when blogging) like I talk. I learned from my days of doing news at radio stations that writing for the ear is different than writing for the eye. And it just seemed to me that informal blogging is writing for the ear. Or is it the eye's ear? Whatever. It's the way I'm wanting to write. Score: 1-0.
Put blank lines between paragraphs instead of merely
indenting a new line.

White space is your friend.

I need to work on this. I'm doing it more than I used to, but only because I realized my posts were looking crowded. I'm developing toward this, but not there yet. Score: 1-1.
In order to make text seem more like speech, the two things you need to reproduce are pauses and emphasis.

There are several different emphasizing tools:

Bold - I use this mostly for drawing attention to a particular sentence in a large quote, or for the subject word if I'm doing a list. Although some people use it to emphasize a paticular word in a sentence, I prefer not to as it can be confused with a hyperlink.

I use it some, but not much. Score: 2-1.
Italics - My technique of choice to emphasize one particular word, mid-sentence, I find it best conveys the slight stress given to words in the course of normal conversation.

I am more into the bold rather than italics for emphasis. And yes, I know that the <em> HTML tag that italicizes comes from emphasis. I'm trying to use italics for emphasis and bold for <strong> emphasis. Just like HTML says. HTML is my friend. I need to improve here. Score: 2-2.
ALL-CAPS - Mostly used for a sentence which was shouted, such as "HEY YOU KIDS! GET OFFA MY LAWN!", but it can also be used for single words, mid-sentence, interchangably with italics.

I've been in the all-caps-is-shouting camp for over 20 years. On the old CompuServe forums of the early 1980s, I had that drilled into me. It stuck. Score: 3-2.
*asterisks* - Good for emphasizing short words where italics wouldn't be very noticable.

I'm from that camp, also. From the '80s. Score: 4-2.
There's also underlining, but it looks too much like a hyperlink, so I almost never use it.

Score: 5-2.
Now for pauses... you have several choices, and they're essentially interchangable, so I won't go into detail about them. You can decide for yourself what length of pause they create, and when it's appropriate to use each.

- hyphens -

But DO use them - they put the rhythm of speech into your writing.

That's easy. Score: 6-2.
Finally, a few words about colloquialism and regional dialect. Bein' from Wisconsin, ya know, I have my verbal idiosyncrasies, and I type them. The final "g" gets dropped a lot, so I'm not shy about typing it that way if that's what it sounds like I'm saying in my head. Figure if that's how I speak, I'm gonna write that way.

Use contractions, too. You're NOT Commander Data. You-do-not-speak-like-him. Do-not-write-like-him, either. If you habitually say contractions, type them.

I'm good at that part, ain't I? Score: 7-2.
There WILL be certain times when you want to write a serious piece, and the more-formal writing techniques are more appropriate.

This is actually something that I know to do, but don't know how well I do. While I do get serious on occasion, I've kept is mostly informal. We're all friends here. I'm gonna take a win on this one. Score: 8-2.
A well-placed YIKES! or UGH! or DAMN! will liven things up, and even an occasional "um...", "er...", "wha..." or "uh..." can do wonders toward making your writing seem more conversational.

I do that. Even when talking. Score: 9-2.
When teasing or using sarcasm, sometimes it's not obvious from the words alone that you were just kidding. To avoid misunderstandings, ... use ... "emoticons". Facial expressions are an essential part of verbal communication, and I see no reason not to include them as a type-written substitute.

This I don't do a lot. Perhaps I like people not knowing if I'm serious or not. Or, if I make an ass out of myself, I can say "I was joking" and maybe get away with it. But I fall short here. Score: 9-3.
When you're blogging, the important thing is to use ALL the tools of the language to convey your thoughts. The only standard you're answerable to is "does this help the reader understand the subtleties of what I'm trying to communicate?"

Forget the "rules".

Have FUN.

I can do that: Score 10-3.

Okay, overall, not too bad. Let's see. Need to work on white space, italics, and emoticons. Got it.

Let's see just how long that last's, huh? :)

I'm really looking forward to the next topic: Getting more traffic


  1. My blog voice is an 82 year old retiree living in a nursing home down in Palm Beach always talking on and on about joint aches and pains and the good old days, so I told it to shut up...so now I just fake my blog voice ;)

  2. I type in an American accent, but I'm a middle class Brit from Manchester.

    The voices in my head are Swiss.

    The voices in my right hand (the ones that shout 'STRANGLE!' are Belgian.

  3. Sorry I didn't get here to check this out earlier. I'm quite flattered to see someone trying to apply my advice.

    And personally, I think you do fine on white space. Also, I give you credit for using bold. As long as you make use of a variety of tools, it's all good. Personal preferences will vary, and I'm fine with whatever people use, as long as they're fairly consistent.

    Speaking strictly for myself, though, bold lettering emphasizes to my eye, while italic emphasizes to my ear. Normal people might be different :-)


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