Have you found your voice yet?
No, not your speaking voice.
The voice you use when you write.
Fiction writers work hard to develop their style and voice – we readers very quickly know if a story was really written by the author whose work we’ve read before. Long or short sentences, presence or absence of descriptive passages, how the words flow, use of familiar words (or ones that send us scurrying to the dictionary) – all indicators of their voice.
So it needs to be with nonfiction writers, especially when it comes to business writing. Your clients recognise the way you write, and it comes as a jolt when they read something that doesn’t quite line up with the style they expect. And the greater the number of writers in your organisation and the greater the number of document types you use, the greater the possibility of variations in your voice.
In business, we know the importance of our brand. We may have spent considerable dollars on getting it just right, and we’re persnickety about its use. Your voice, your writing style, is equally as important.
Before we look at the benefits of finding and recording your voice, let’s understand what I mean by ‘voice’.
- Do you tend to write formally – very correctly every time – or in a chattier, friendlier way? Are your letter or email recipients addressed by their given name, or as ‘Mx Smith’?
- How do you abbreviate your organisation’s name – Petersons Engineering Consultancy, PEC, Petersons? How do you refer to your organisation – ABC is … or ABC are …?
- How do you format dates and times? Captions for tables, figures and illustrations? Lists? Measurements?
- What specialised terms can you use without having to explain them?
- Do you capitalise every word in headings? What about positions or roles in your organisation?
- Are there certain text segments that need to be emphasised in a particular way?
- How do you refer to a person of unknown gender?
These are just a few of the elements that make up your voice.
Your aim is to use ‘that’ voice for all written communications from your business
– regardless of the writer or the type of document.
But why? you may ask.
- It’s about professionalism and credibility, and sets the writing standard expected in your organisation.
- Consistency reflects, protects and enhances your corporate identity and brand.
- You’ll save time and money when you have unified written communications.
- If you hire an external writer or editor, they will thank you – and their service will be speedier and less expensive, because they don’t have to ask you.
- New writers in your business will become productive more quickly.
Capture and record all this information in your style guide.
Make sure every writer is familiar with it – and uses it every time.
So set to work and begin to build your style guide.