How to Develop Your Blogging Voice

How to Develop Your Blogging Voice on Blacksburg Belle - photo credit: April Bowles-Olin

Make a list {on paper or in your head} of your top five favorite blogs.

Got ‘em?

Now, consider why you’re semi-addicted to each one. What’s the pull that keeps you coming back for seconds {and thirds and fourths}?

Maybe it’s the helpful information. The creative DIY projects. The pretty photos. The interesting stories.

But, lots of blogs have these things. What makes those top five blogs stand out among the millions you could be reading?

Could it be the blogger’s style and voice?

It’s not just the pretty pictures but it’s the style of the pictures. If you were to spot one on Pinterest, you’d know who took it without clicking on it. And, there’s something about her style that you adore.

It’s not just the helpful information, but it’s how the blogger makes it fun and engaging.

Or, maybe it’s the way she writes: with lots of snarkiness and honesty. You can’t help but laugh out loud every single time you read a post on her blog.

This is the magic. The fairy dust. The wizardry potion that you’ve been searching for to make your blog the kind of blog that has devoted, slightly obsessed readers.

Today we’re going to focus on the voice part of this equation.

If you don’t have a strong blogging voice, dullness will permeate your writing. We won’t be able hear you in your posts. And, that’s a problem.

Instead of starting from scratch, pick one of your recent posts and let’s give it the “personality test.”

Print out the blog post so that you can scratch out words, circle things, make notes, and highlight. {Who doesn’t love to highlight things? If you don’t get a little thrill from highlighting, we can’t be friends.}

Step 1: Read it out loud and fix the “I’d never really say this” parts.

Don’t rush. Pay close attention as you read through it. Circle anything that doesn’t fit. Circle the words that you stumble over. Mark the sentences that feel clumsy in your mouth. Pick apart the phrases that don’t sound like anything you’d ever actually say in a conversation.

Go back through the post and rewrite those pieces that you marked.

Step 2: Include bits of story whenever possible.

Something unique to you and only you are your stories, and your viewpoint of those stories. Snippets of story infuse a mundane blog post with adventure, comedy and drama.

When you write a post about the newest quilt in your Etsy shop, tell the story of how you learned to quilt when you spent the summer before fourth grade with your grandma. Tell us how you’d sip pink lemonade while your grandma demonstrated each step of the quilting process and then let you try.

When you blog about your latest paintings inspired by your recent trip to Italy, include the story of how you got stuck in the rain and wound up in a tiny coffee shop, indulging in the most decadent tiramisu and sketching in your moleskine.

Stories make your blog posts come alive for your readers.

Step 3: Get detailed.

Vague words will annihilate your voice. Read through your post again, and mark all words and phrases that aren’t clear. Hint: Anytime you use an adjective, determine if you could get rid of it with a more descriptive noun or verb.

Here’s an example:

Vague: I made a yummy pie for my grandma. She’s coming to visit this weekend!

More descriptive: I spent the afternoon baking a peach pie with a graham cracker crust for my grandma’s visit this weekend.

Even better with voice: I’m still finding remnants of the buttery, graham cracker crust I prepared earlier today under my nails. I baked my nana’s favorite, peach pie, for her visit this weekend, but I might have to sneak a slice. The warm peaches, sugar and cinnamon filled every corner of the house, making my stomach rumble with greed.

With the first vague sentence, you’re being told that I made a pie for my grandma, but you can’t picture it. You can’t hear my voice. By the end, you can see the crumbs still under my nails and smell the baked peaches mixed with sugar and cinnamon.

It’s much easier to stick with vague, but easy isn’t always best, especially when it comes to writing.

Step 4: Read each sentence critically and give it the friend test.

Each sentence needs to stand on it’s own. Would you say it that way to a friend?

If your answer is no for any of your sentences, rewrite them so that they sound more like your amazing self. Include words that you often say in conversation.

Step 5: Use bolding and italics to help your readers hear the authentic ring of your voice.

When you type a sentence, we don’t always know what part you would emphasize if you were speaking to us—instead of writing to us.

Use italics and bolding in special cases when you want to spotlight a word or phrase. You don’t want to overuse this technique, or it’ll get annoying for your reader.

Read through your post and pick one to three words or phrases you want to highlight. Italicize or bold them.

Those are just five steps you can take to ensure that your posts sound more like you.

I could write another fifty-seven pages on writing with personality and writing like yourself—but that would be an ebook, not a blog post. I’ll be covering this topic in more depth in this three-day workshop: Build a Successful Creative Blog.

RSVP right here to watch it online for FREE May 1st to May 3rd. And, if you’re in the San Francisco area or able to travel for the workshop, I’d love to have you in the studio audience which is also free. The studio audience will be small, and I’ll be giving each person individual attention and feedback. {And, wouldn’t it be soooooo super cool to hang out in person for three days?!?! Only awesome people read this blog, so I know we’d have a ton of fun!}

If you know anyone who would benefit from this workshop on creativeLIVE, please share this page with them. I want as many people as possible to watch it live while it’s free, because my goal is to help as many creatives as possible improve their blogs. You in?

Click to Tweet: I RSVP’d to take this workshop on building a successful creative blog! It’s FREE if you watch it live.

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23 Responses to How to Develop Your Blogging Voice

  1. Sage Grayson March 26, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Aaahh!!! This is amazing! I live in San Francisco, and it would be super cool to be in the studio audience. I love your “365 Writing and Blogging Prompts,” and you’ve helped me flip my writing from “eh” to exciting. :) Filling out the form now!
    Sage Grayson recently posted..How to Let Go of Perfection to Get Ahead in Your Career

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      You do?!?!?!?!? Oh my gosh! I would absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE to meet you in person.

  2. Janet March 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    HI ya April,

    You shared some great points on finding your blogging voice. Re-reading your work is so important, and so is reading it out loud. Everything changes when you take the word out of your head and speak them out loud. For me i always write draft and then go back to it after a few days to add tweaks an touches to bring it to life.

    Blessings Janet
    Janet recently posted..3 Tips that helped Increase John Lewis Online Sales by 44%

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Oh yes, reading it out loud helps you recognize when you stumble. It makes you go, “Hmmmmm…that doesn’t sound quite right.”

      I also like to write a post over a few days. I don’t always do it, but it does make a difference when you can leave it for a little while and come back. 100% agree!

  3. Coral March 26, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    I love how much my voice has developed over the last 2 years of blogging. The words I use in real life (without quite so much swearing.. hehe), my Ocker Aussie language is all me. The more ‘me’ that was in my writing, the more compliments I got so I knew I was pointed in the write direction. Reading my early posts now… boring!!!

    You mentioned talking to a friend as a sneaky trick to help. I imagine my favourite artist SHero or spunky actor will be reading it. That really makes you do your best before you press publish. *wink*
    Coral recently posted..I’m stripping out, but not stripping off… because no-one needs to see that

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      I also leave out my potty mouth. Most of the time. Hahahaha!

      I cringe when I read my first posts. It makes me want to hit that delete button, but I don’t.

      Pretending that your favorite artist or super hero or actor is reading your post is such a GOOD one! I love it. I think I might have to mention this tip (while giving you credit, of course) in my blogging workshop.

  4. Megan March 26, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

    I haven’t been blogging long, but I my goal whenever I sit down to write is to pretend that I’m writing an email to my friend (and sometimes I actually do send an email before I start writing my post to get in that mindset). It does wonders! Sometimes getting my personality is hard during the first draft, but I always re-read through a few times and edit to make it sound more like me.
    Megan recently posted..Gettin’ Creative- Making Pretty Things

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:12 am #

      That’s an awesome tip! If you’re having trouble, write an email to a friend first. I love that trick. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Tina March 27, 2014 at 5:00 am #

    I knew I was doing something right! Makes a change……..

    Thank you, my dear!
    Tina recently posted..How to blow your own trumpet and get away with it….

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:12 am #

      Yay! Get it girl!

  6. Jennifer Kennedy March 27, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Yay!! This is such a fabulous post!! Love the idea of printing out a recent post and dissecting it to make it better!! In the past, I’ve reread posts that I know used my voice and figured out what made it pop in order to replicate that in other posts! Gonna give your technique a try for my next post! Woohoo!! (Now, I just need to be better organized so I can do this way in advance!)

    Oh, and yes, I’m going to check out your CreativeLIVE course and submit for an in person seat!! Looking forward to it!
    Jennifer Kennedy recently posted..2 Ridiculously Simple Steps to Find Out What Learners Want

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:14 am #

      Thanks, Jennifer! When you take the time to do this work, it makes a huge difference. I know it does in my own writing. I’ve also looked at past posts that are really popular, dissecting them to see what worked really well.

      Oh, I would LOVE to meet you in person. What fun we’d have!

  7. Mary Lu March 27, 2014 at 8:36 pm #

    I try to speak from my heart and write for me. I’ve found that works for me and I get good interaction with my audience. I also think of it as a journal that I want to share with others. I use mine as a way to share a little of my life and my faith.

    Thanks for your great tips!!
    Mary Lu
    Mary Lu recently posted..Transitioning….

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:15 am #

      Hi Mary Lu! That’s also a great point. You write a blog that you’d want to read. I’ve got that as part of my workshop, because it makes so much sense–and it does work!

  8. Jess March 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

    I sincerely appreciate this article and the fantastic timing. Last week I was just commenting to my mom that I feel like I am a ghost in my own blog posts. I really need to get my butt in gear to make them sparkle. This weekend I breakout the highlighters and mark the crap out of a few posts! I’m a new reader to your blog but I absolutely adore it.

    Many Thanks-Jessie

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:16 am #

      Thanks Jess! I’m so glad this post speaks to you.

      Get out those highlighters and mark up those posts to your heart’s desire! You’ll be a better writer for it. :)

      And, welcome! So glad you’re here.

  9. Mariana Marinescu April 1, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    Thank You April!!! Looking forward to your thoughtful & creative insights… & Yes, I do know of people that would love & benefit from this — I just recommended your post on the B-school FB page! xo

    • April April 1, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      You’re so welcome, Mariana! Thank you so much for sharing this post. You’re a sweetheart.

  10. Caitlyn April 2, 2014 at 5:24 am #

    Thanks for another great post April! You always inspire me to up my game & I loved your point on ‘getting detailed’ as sometimes avoid this in fear I may bore my readers :) BEST of luck for your workshop, will check now if our international times overlap and will then defs sign up to watch online if it does!! :) You are an inspiration!!

  11. lynni April 11, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    Great tips thanks April!

  12. Irma April 22, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    So glad I came across your blog! My postings quite frankly lack the “bling” factor! Having spent most of my life in the corporate world of writing, my item descriptions clearly need some work. I have never been a creative writer but your tips on writing like you talk to a friend have really inspired me. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend your upcoming workshop (at the corporate job) but would love to get my hands on it. Is it possible to buy it and watch at my leisure? Thank you so much April!

    • April April 22, 2014 at 10:20 am #

      Hi Irma! I’m so glad you came across my blog, too. Welcome!

      You can certainly purchase it and watch it at your leisure. All you have to do is click on “Get anytime access for $59″ and you can buy it. It’ll be available right after it runs live, and I believe the price will go up after the live workshop.

      I hope you get a TON out of it! And, thank you so much for your support.

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  1. 9 Must-Read Blog Posts (and the AMAZING email I got this week) | Blacksburg Belle - April 23, 2014

    […] A month ago, as I was working on the voice section of the workshop, I tried out some of my ideas via a blog post: How to Develop Your Blogging Voice. […]