Personality can be the making or breaking of your blog and your brand. If your blog posts are well-written, well-researched and well-marketed but still not gaining a foothold and earning you return readers who talk about you and pull more readers for you, it’s time to look at HOW you write, not just what you write about.
In the early 2000s, it seemed like everyone in the writing world was following Miss Snark. She was a literary agent and she gave invaluable advice about writing, submitting and agenting, but she did it snarkily. She was anonymous. She was hilarious. In a span of two years, she had over 2.5 million hits, and she actually had to retire to keep her sanity. She was getting too many messages and repeat questions.
She’s still alive, she’s still agenting, only the blog is at rest, but it’s still getting reads. Miss Snark has made herself immortal.
So how can you do the same? How do you write with personality?
Personality traits– include them in your writing.
Look at The Oatmeal. Matthew Inman’s sense of humor is phenomenal and creative. He uses it for his graphic blog. He doesn’t even stick to one topic– his coverage is huge, from love bugs and tapeworms to whales and religion, coffee and sriracha.
Miss Snark had plenty of sarcasm– she used it.
This is how you open yourself up to your readers. It’s like showing your real self to friends.
Your favorite things– include them in your writing.
James Clear is a news and history buff. He gobbles things up in current and historic events. How do I know? It’s obvious in his articles. He has this artistic style of segueing from a true story.
It has become his trademark. What about you? What do you love? Where do your ideas spring from? What are you passionate about? Do your readers know it?
Own a writing style.
Seth Godin is famous for short short posts. He says what he needs to say and that’s it. YOU can have your own writing style.
Pick the two above and mix them with a writing style. Look at grammar rules. Break some.
- Excessive alliteration – often frowned upon on academic and professional papers. But it’s creative and fun!
- Run-on sentences – sentences without punctuation to end them, but are actually just tools to create urgency and humor. You go on and on like a loquacious friend (with a good set of lungs)
- Extra punctuation. It’s how we talk. Plenty of fragments. Full stops for emphasis. I. Love. This. As a reader, it breaks the rhythm of reading from sentence to sentence. It makes me take notice and remember things.
- Exploit cliches. In writing class, we’re always told to watch out for cliches. But they’re so catchy, and putting your own spin on them makes you recognizable and memorable. You could even start a new expression! Post it on Twitter!
Adapt to your audience.
Yes, if you want viral content, you write for your audience needs. But more than that, you also talk to your audience. Would they listen to you because you speak their voice?
Miss Snark became the voice of plenty of writers forced to be polite and magnanimous to fellow bloggers, their agents, their publishers, etc. Writers have plenty of sarcasm stored up, and we usually never get to shake them out for fear of being thought rude.
Miss Snark had no such compunctions. Writers were her audience, and she knew sarcasm and snark wouldn’t sail over our heads, but would hit us full-face and leave us (bruised but) alive and happy.
Think of your audience. How do they talk among themselves?
Think of the radio. The most long-running shows and the most beloved hosts are those who entertained their audience. It’s not about WHAT they talked about in their shows. It was HOW they talked about it. And they didn’t offend or disgust their audience. They entertained and they sympathized. They were relatable.
If your target audience are teens and yuppies, you need the lingo. If your target audience are moms, well, Money-Saving Mom has over 1.5 million readers each month. They post deals, discounts and freebies, but the posts that get the most responses are still the ones that provide tips alongside expressing some of the haplessness that goes along with the happiness of motherhood.
Be true to yourself and your brand core.
Write like you talk. Mention things that delight or disgust you. Talk about yourself. It’s okay. It’s friendly and personal. So long as you stay true to your blog and brand core and stick to your style, it’s good.
Matthew Inman is well-known for speaking up for writing and creating in general. He famously butted heads with Huffington Post because HuffPost hotlinked to his entire comic without permission. Aside from principle, speaking up happens to coincide with The Oatmeal’s frankness. Those cartoons always represent facts and truths.
What about you and your brand? Finding your brand core (Traveling mom? Blogging help? B2B and marketing tips?) helps you write with personality (perhaps slightly hyper (from all the dizzying planning and execution) for traveling mom, calm and assured for blogging help, and friendly and down-to-earth for marketing help) AND optimize everything from the ground up. It’s how you connect to your readers, and how search engines find you.
What entertains you when you’re the reader? Or who do you want to write to, and how would you make them smile or snicker? Stephen King calls this the Ideal Reader. For him, it’s his wife, Tabitha. You can do the same trick. Think of someone, write to them. Give shape and form and personality to your reader– and aim to please them.
Ready to inject personality into your writing? Any tips can you share with us?