Finding Your Brand’s Writing Voice: Thoughts and Take-Aways

I attended my first marketing conference two weeks ago, and came back with a certain energy that no amount of those sugar-free Monsters I should stop drinking could amount to (as tasty as they may be).

My seat neighbor on the flight home from Boston (also a conference attendee) said “Wow, you went big for your first marketing conference!” Yes, yes I did. And I’m already excited about next year’s INBOUND conference too.

One of the sessions I attended talked about finding your “voice” when writing for your brand (personal or professional).  HubSpot’s Product Editor-in-Chief, Beth Dunn, gave some great tips and reminders when “finding your voice”. Her session tickled my grammar/ writing-nerd fancy, so I thought I’d share my take-aways from her session for others looking to find their “voice”.

 “Use Your Words: Find the Voice of Your Brand” by HubSpot’s Product Editor-in-Chief, Beth Dunn:

  1. Sound human:
    When we speak, we use contractions. It’s not natural to say every single word when having a conversation with someone. Change “you will not” to “you won’t”, “I cannot” to “I can’t” and so on.
  2. Sound honest:
    Who uses the words “employ”, “utilize” or “leverage” when talking to friends or family? It’s best to use shorter, simpler words — not unnecessarily fancy words. All three of these words can be replaced with one word: “use”. It’s clear and simple.
  3. Cut the exclamation points:
    Using exclamation points, especially in multiples, reveals a weakness in your words. If your words are strong, you can show your excitement without exclamation points.
  4. Avoid jargon:
    Using acronyms can alienate your readers if they have to go look up what it stands for. Err on the side of over-defining them: type out the word multiple times before shortening it to its acronym, even for common marketing phrases, such as: “SEO” or “CTA”.
  5. Use spell check:
    It seems obvious, but proof your writing before publishing it. Solely relying on your word processor to catch your mistakes…is a mistake. It may not catch a capitalized word that should be lowercase instead, and it typically can’t check context (be sure you’ve used the proper “their”, “they’re”, or “there”).
  6. Use a style guide:
    If you don’t have one, make one. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just a place to capture the language, style, look and feel of your writing to make sure you are consistent. Keep it nearby every time you write a new piece of content. (Some items to consider: Will you use the oxford comma? Is it e-mail or email? Drop-down or dropdown?)
  7. Hire an editor (or find an editor-at-heart):
    Everyone knows or works with a grammar nerd (I’m guilty of the title). They love to help because, honestly, they cringe at the sight of poor grammar… so they’ll likely help for their own sanity. (They may even have a template for you to start with for number 6, above.)
  8. Check your pronouns:
    Avoid using “we” and “I” – it’s not about you, it’s about them. Use “you” instead. Instead of “I’m excited to announce…” or “We’re working hard to bring…” use “You’ll be happy to hear…” or “You’re going to love this…”
  9. Role play:
    Before publishing, take on the persona of one of your readers. Think of their personality, add a bad mood on top of that, and read your words again. How will it sound to them on a bad day? Will it entertain them, or be overlooked?
  10. Don’t be snarky:
    We incorrectly think that snarky = humor. Using this form of humor can come off as self-righteous and jerky. Instead, channel someone you think is light-heartedly funny.

And lastly, the super top-secret to being a good writer:

You ready for it?

Be kind.

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