Hi all, I bring you a semi-rare post today in the form of a discussion post. This time, I’d like to discuss the struggle of finding your own personal voice and blogging tone, as it has been something that’s been on my mind a lot over the last few months and it definitely affects how much I blog since it’s constantly playing on my mind.
First, let me explain what I mean. I follow some amazing bloggers who have such fun and engaging blogs. And, in an internet full of blogs (especially those about books), what distinguishes one book blog from another? Largely, it’s the tone, it’s the blogger’s personality coming across through the “voice” of their blog. My favourite blogs are the ones full of this voice, the ones where the blogger’s complete personality seems to really shine and engage their readers. I’m not necessarily talking about big personalities; there are more understated blogs and bloggers that just sound so distinct, so very much them, that it’s hard to resist automatically reading their latest post when it pops up in my Reader.
This is what I aspire to. Or not even that, but to have a more distinct voice. Because I feel a disconnect between my different writing styles and I’m not sure if my (attempted) amalgamation of them in this blog quite works to form one ‘voice’. You see, I am well used to adjusting my tone depending on the audience.
When I frequented Tumblr, my style was very different from, say, the very few things I post on Facebook, which again differs from my Twitter tone. Modulation of tone is a natural thing for each and every one of us to do – it’s the difference between how you talk to your best friend and how you talk to a colleague at work and, even if you say you talk exactly the same, I promise you that you don’t. Linguistically speaking, it might mean using less slang or more formalised synonyms for words. It might mean using less code. It might mean pronouncing your words more clearly or slowing down your speech.
And all of this is still evident, I think, in the written medium online. Because blogging is confined to the screen, and we very rarely get to hear a blogger speak (unless they happen to also do YouTube or a podcast), their blogging tone is all that they have to communicate with. Certain sentence structures or lexical choices will say a lot about the person behind the blog. And, if that’s all we have to develop a sense of that individual, then it does a lot of work in forming our opinions of the person.
Now, I can’t say definitively how deliberate or natural any of these blogging voices are. For my money, I try to take a more casual approach to blogging, and on this blog I tend to write halfway between how I speak, and how I aspire to speak – that is, to say, to be a tad more eloquent. This is a hang-over from my days of writing English literature essays; I can’t quite let go of the semi-colons or the slightly pretentious words (I used the word bildungsroman today when I didn’t really need to). But I am also aware that to be too far that way inclined makes my blog, potentially, less accessible. After all, we all like when something is plain speaking and easy to read, don’t we? And there are readers out there whose first language isn’t English. It’s better if communication is clear and you don’t need to stop reading someone’s blog mid-sentence in order to Google an unfamiliar word they’ve just used. But the ex-literature student in me still grumbles sometimes at the tone I use on this blog. I think it’s because I miss it – I miss writing essays, I miss adopting that academic tone and, yes, I miss using waaaaay too many commas and clauses and genuinely phrasing points like “epitomises the ontological dilemma of existence”. I miss it so much. And I’m starting to feel like I’m forgetting how to write like that, that my way of writing is becoming (dare I say it) less smart.
Please, please know I am not trying to sound quite so uppity or pretentious when I say this but… I just think my writing style is becoming… dumber or less sophisticated somehow. The points I make in reviews are nowhere near as critical or insightful as I would like them to be. I’d like to say this is because I am treading that line between “academic” and “popular” but the truth of the matter is that I’ve just fallen out of practice with thinking in those terms. I no longer read to analyse, first and foremost; nowadays, I read primarily to enjoy. There is categorically nothing wrong with that, in fact, I’d say it’s advisable, but it’s a large part of why I struggle for tone on this blog – because part of me is screaming that what I’m saying isn’t clever enough or insightful enough or that I’m just being vacuous and not adding anything to the discussion.
I am not saying that in order for you to have any worth in this sphere that you have to adopt an academic tone – far from it, in fact! It’s just that I wish I had a slightly more insightful blogging voice because I feel like I just get lost amongst the crowd and, if nothing else, my background in English literature is what I do have. But this is just… not evident in my blogging voice, in my opinion. Maybe you disagree, maybe I sound pretentious, maybe I sound completely up myself right now, or maybe you entirely disagree with every single point I’ve made in this discussion post. I’m struggling with these kinds of thoughts a lot, as I try to really invest more effort into my blog.
Roughly speaking, I wish I had a tone like the lovely ladies of the podcast Witch Please; they’re fun and feminist but also extremely clever and have insightful things to say about all aspects of Harry Potter. In one breath they could be discussing the politics of slavery vs serfdom as presented by house elves, and in the next they could be talking about imagining the films reinvented with Mark Ruffalo playing every single character. It’s pop but it’s also whip smart and awesome and I just really wish that I could attain even 1% of that kind of tone on this blog.
I suppose the simplest way to work on your own personal voice is just to write, and write a lot – practice will help anyone’s writing develop and grow and (hopefully) let your inner voice be translated onto paper, or the screen in this case. You need to be willing to work at it, to take a chance, make a change, and see how people respond. To me, there’s nothing disingenuous about this, it’s just about pitching your blogging voice to the audience that is receiving it. It could take weeks, months, years, to develop a tone that you’re (read: I’m) really happy with, and that you think best matches your personality and how you want to blog. I’m going to keep trying, and hopefully that will develop along the way…
I’m really intrigued about this topic – do you think you have a particular writing style or blogging tone? Are you happy with it? Do you think it reflects you and your personality completely, or do you purposely adopt a different tone when blogging?
Like I said, I’m really curious, so please do comment below with any and all thoughts, comments, queries, and/or criticisms!