Earlier this month I was at the BlogOn conference in Winchester where Annie from Mammasaurus ran a fascinating session about developing your own style as a photographer.
One of the exercises she recommended doing was to write down five words that define what you like most about photos and use those to refine your own approach.
For me, those elements include a preference for ‘candid’ (unposed) portraits and a high contrast colour palette that sets off warmer yellows and oranges against dramatic blues and greys. A quick glance at my Instagram feed will show you what I mean. It gives my photography a style all its own.
Anyone can do this exercise, and it’s a great way to develop a consistent approach to photography. But it can also be used to hone your writing style and ensure the words in your blog are as distinctive as your pictures.
Do you know what your writing style is? Is it focussed, consistent and unique? Can you describe it in five simple words or phrases?
For many of us, our writing style is something that evolves over time. We experiment with different voices or try to emulate bloggers we aspire to be more like. But until we understand what feels best and most natural, it can be difficult for readers to properly identify with us.
So why not give it a try? Write down the five words/phrases that define your blogging voice and then refine everything you write in line with that. There’s no right or wrong answer. My only advice would be to avoid overthinking it or being drawn into descriptors that are too generic (e.g. everyone wants to be ‘honest’).
As an example, here are the five words I came up with to describe my writing style, with some explanatory notes.
1. Analytical. Taking data and turning it into something meaningful in the context of a bigger picture is what I do for a living and it’s also my default writing mode. Some people write with tremendous emotion, with their hearts on their sleeves and a song in their heart. I’m more rational in my style: I take data and observations, draw arguments and conclusions, and weave those into a narrative. I can write with emotion but it’s rarely my starting point. I don’t often write posts that are pure stream-of-consciousness – I’m more structured in my approach.
2. Light-hearted. I’m not a funny person. I wish I could be. But I’m just not someone who can bash out 500 words of comic perfection every time I put finger to keyboard. What does come naturally to me is seeing the lighter side of life. I’m never going to out-comic the genuinely funny bloggers out there – and when I try too hard it comes across as forced – but if I can raise the odd chuckle with a wry observation that’s much more my style.
3. Positive. While I’m fairly open about the fact that life as a parent is never perfect, it’s not something I dwell on. I’ll acknowledge that sometimes things are rubbish and move on. I tend to be optimistic in general and I can usually see the good in even a bad situation. I love reading bloggers who have the courage to bare every aspect of parenthood, warts and all. But that’s just not me.
4. Quirky. A few people have independently used this word to describe my writing style recently, so I ought to acknowledge it. I like to approach things from slightly left of centre, whether that means taking a creative angle on a familiar topic or employing an unusual metaphor (what I call ‘channelling my inner Clarkson’) to underline a point. Sometimes that means people may not ‘get’ me, but at the same time I’ve learned to embrace the fact that I’m wired slightly differently to other people and I don’t have to conform to an accepted norm.
5. Self-deprecating. Equal parts modesty, shyness and an innate lack of self-confidence, I’m not one of these people who’s comfortable with putting themselves out there. (I wish I was.) Instead I tend not to take myself too seriously and I’m usually the first to have a laugh at my own expense. It means I’m often too self-critical and I undervalue myself but it also lends itself to a writing style that is (hopefully) easygoing and engaging.
So, over to you. What’s your writing style?