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Do you talk with your hands?

I do. Especially when I’m trying to emphasise a point. Or if I’m speaking in front of a group of people, and I start to get nervous.

When that happens, I’ve got a habit of drawing out the last syllables of my words, or adding in a “sooooooo…” while I’m thinking about the next thing I want to say. I also seem to have a strange compulsion to raise my eyebrows about 18 times a minute… (whatever that’s about).

It’s one of the main reasons why I’m not a fan of appearing on video to promote my business. Like a lot of us, I get very self-conscious in front of a camera.

Taking the Leap…

Last week, after almost three years in (online) business (and much dithering, procrastination, and many, many very creative objections as to why I shouldn’t), I did my very first Facebook live video.

And when I watched that two-minute video back, the mannerisms I mentioned above seemed to be magnified tenfold – it felt like an eternity. (Note to self – NEVER watch your Facebook lives back.)

But, once I was finished cringing and hiding behind the sofa cushions, I thought back to the advice I’ve heard from pretty much every video expert out there – to “be yourself on camera.” When I watched my video back again I realised that’s exactly what I had done, and I thought, “you know what, that’s not so bad. You just sound like…you!”

It’s exactly the same when it comes to blogging for your business. Don’t write the way you think you *should* write.

Write like yourself.

Looking for Clues…

As part of my work, I help clients with writing and editing their blog posts. It might be because they’re not keen on writing, but know the value of blogging for business. Or maybe they love to write, but don’t get time to do it as much as they’d like. Sometimes they’ll ask me to give their content a final polish – making sure it’s sharp, succinct and flows well. But in each case, it’s my job to make sure that the finished piece sounds exactly like them.

Usually I have a head start, because I’m taking video or podcast episodes they’ve already created and turning them into blog posts. Or working from a voice note they’ve recorded to capture their thoughts – perhaps while out walking the dog or pacing around the kitchen doing a verbal brain-dump.

Occasionally I have less to go on, maybe a brief outline or some rough notes…and then there are certain clues and techniques I rely on, so that what I create catches their tone and voice accurately and my input remains invisible.

One of those techniques is to pay close attention to their mannerisms. Even in writing, we still express them. Maybe it’s that they write in very brief sentences, or keep their paragraphs to just a line or two. Perhaps they use unusual capitalisation, or start sentences with “and” or “but”. If you look back over my writing, you’ll notice that I like to use * * around words for emphasis, brackets are a (regular) feature, and I’m fond of an ellipsis… or three.

It’s OK to Bend the Rules.

A lot of these things aren’t strictly grammatically correct if you’re “going by the book”. But when it comes to writing online, you need to throw out the book. (Or at least stick it up on your top shelf and only refer to it from time to time.)

Our attention spans are short. We’re bombarded with a HUGE amount of information every day. If you’re going to write as a way to catch the attention of your ideal audience, then you need to sound like you. And not a formal, sanitised version of you that’s totally different than the one we’d meet in person.

Keep it Simple…

Write like you speak. And I mean…write like you’d speak in a professional capacity – to a customer or colleague. If it’s ok for you to turn up to meet clients in a t-shirt and jeans, and there’s no need for you to be formal in your interactions with them, then don’t be formal in your writing. Even if you do work in a space that’s traditionally considered more straight-laced, then it still pays to be clear, simple and concise in your writing. Always.

Now I’m not telling you to throw all grammar and spelling considerations out the window. You still need to make your posts clear and readable – too many spelling mistakes and typos can also dent your credibility. But instead of “sitting down to write” on your chosen topic, try “sitting down to talk to your ideal client” instead. What would you say to them?

The biggest compliment I (inadvertently) receive is when I spot someone commenting to a client in regards to a blog post I’ve written, “I really enjoyed your latest post, I always love your writing.” Then I know I got it right.

Try it with your next blog post. Just be you. Your readers will respond, because that’s who they’re there to listen to.