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December 18, 2020
How to write like you talk

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10 ways to (re)discover your voice

When you’ve spent more years than an octopus has legs writing for other people, how do you even know what YOU sound like?

And why care?

After all, you make good money from adopting other voices. You’re a chameleon on crack—changing the way the world perceives your presence multiple times a day.

Nothing wrong with that, in fact, there’s lots of great cashola up for grabs if you do it well.

This is where I found myself at the beginning of the year.

After 10 years of working as writer in varying contexts, mostly as a UX strategist and copywriter for enterprise businesses, I’d found myself oddly disconnected from my own voice.

As I’d started building a personal brand (hello, have we met?), I figured I need to get back in touch with who I was and what the real me sounded like. 

Everything I’ve done to date this year has been through this lens of self-discovery.

But before I share with you the step-by-step of how I did this (and you can too), I’ve got something else I want to get off my chest.

Learning is as fun as the year 2020

People that get excited about what new systems can do for their business or who go back to university in their 30s blow my freaking mind.

Doing “inner work” (sorry, I cannot, will not, use those words without air quotes) is even worse. It’s a hard-to-swallow burrito of tedious progress and uncomfy revelations.

I have a goody two shoes attitude that can be both helpful and problematic when learning something new, or just navigating the world in general.

You see I always feel like gym instructors are screaming at me personally to push harder, go faster, or squat deeper. Not the slacko at the back of the class doing a leisurely shuffle.

I squeeze my butt cheeks until they burn, squatting so deep I damage a ligament in my knee.

Just me?

When your brain is wired this way and people you admire tell you to behave a certain way or offer a perspective that differs from how you’re doing things, you panic. Do I need to pivot? Am I a bad person? Should I revisit my world view?

And in 2020, I felt like everyone, their dog, accountant, and spiritual guru had an opinion on THE ONLY WAY to:

  • Market ethically
  • Write for UX
  • Build a personal brand
  • Tell stories
  • Launch products
  • Be a good person

As if 2020 wasn’t exhausting enough.

I share this with you as a warning that writing like you talk sometimes feels like you’re (to bastardise a Hemmingway quote) bleeding onto a page. Painful and discombobulating at times, but worth it, because…

Knowing who you are and what you stand for helps you confidently put your thoughts, writing, and soul out there to the world.

Overcoming the fear

A common objection that often prevents people from committing themselves to (digital) paper, is that people might not like them personally.

To that I simply say, ‘you’re likeable’.

I promise you this, a whole bunch of people are dying to hear more from you. But you’ll never find your people if you they can’t get to know you.

And they can’t get to know you until you master the art of sounding like you in writing.

So enough about the why, let’s get to the how.

10 ways to sound like you in writing

1. What adjectives do you use over and over again?

For me, it’s “awesome” and “amazing”. Use these sparingly in your writing as adjectives do tend to make written words sound more boring than the “inside royal family” mocumentaries surrounding the latest season of ‘The Crown’.

  1. How do you refer to people in general?

“Folks”, “People” or “Legends” all roll off my tongue and I’ve been trying to unlearn “guys” for years—not easy!

  1. Use contractions

This one’s universal. No one I know uses the full words every time, so why write them?

  1. Figure out what you believe in and stand for

You don’t have to bang on about your values in everything you write. Just be clear on them so they infuse your writing like pouring vodka into watermelon. 

  1. How do you greet your friends?

Greet your audience, peers, colleagues the same way as long as it doesn’t include a profanity. 

  1. How do you sign off personal emails?

I’ve used “cheers” for as long as I can remember. I used to worry clients/companies I worked for wouldn’t think it was professional enough, and then I remembered they wouldn’t want those people as my clients/boss anyway.

  1. Do you swear and if yes, how often and with who?

I do swear in real life, so I don’t mind if the odd f-bomb drops into my content just like it would amongst friends. I would never ever write this to a client though.

  1. Pay attention to what you say that makes people laugh.

You’re probably funnier than you think. Whenever people laugh at something I’ve said I try to pay attention to what provoked the laugh. More often than not people laugh AT ME as I have a self-deprecating sense of humour, so I’m incorporating more of that into my writing. 

  1. Survey your friends and family.

Other people often know how you sound more than you do. Ask them for specifics. I didn’t know until my sister told me that I always say, “ALL THE THINGS”.

  1. Use voice transcription software.

It can be exhausting to type everything out all the time. Most computers have some kind of inbuilt voice recognition technology. Speaking to your computer can be a great way to get parts of a first draft down or create a little script for difficult conversations.

Feeling the brain strain?

Learning how to write like you talk takes plenty o’ time and energy to master. Two things that often come in short supply.

If you want to sound more like loveable you without the heavy lifting, this chameleon is for hire.

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