I’m so excited to introduce you to this lady! I stumbled across her blog Kate Sammon not too long ago and just fell in love with her writing. So, I invited her to guest post so she can share her tips for adding personality into our writing.
If there was a choice between a perfectly crafted, spelling free, grammatically perfect piece of writing, and a piece of writing written with soul, passion and a ton of personality, I’d pick the later every single time.
There are so many tools out there now which are apparently helping us to improve our writing. But unfortunately, I fear that they are turning the written word into some kind of robotically produced product. Less tools, more connection + creativity. So, I’ll shut up now, introduce Kate and then let's get into the core of the post.
Kate Sammon is from the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. She is a sometimes writer, sometimes performer, and constant cubicle dweller. She currently lives in Seattle where she is basking in the Pacific Northwest’s natural wonders.
She writes because she thinks storytelling is a crucial unifying mechanism for humanity. Kate writes a regular advice column on her blog, along with other timely and/or random posts. She is also writing this post in the third person right now.
7 Ways To Add Personality Into Your Writing
No one wants to read canned content. If you’re looking to make your content accessible and relatable, put some personality in it. Preferably your personality. It makes the experience of reading AND writing more enjoyable. From word choice to self-awareness, there are multiple ways to go about bringing authenticity and color to your work.
In the list below, I map out how to do just that.
1) Write How You Speak
Years ago, back when AOL Instant Messenger was the most exciting and liberating way for teens to communicate, I spent way too much of my time on there chatting with cute boys and friends.
One night, after a long conversation with my friend Joe, he said, “Sammon, I like talking to you on here because your messages sound the same as when you’re talking to me in person.” I was flattered. No one had ever complimented my instant messaging skills before (or since, for that matter). Back then, it came naturally, as a way to clearly communicate; now I make sure to write that way. When I don’t do that, when I try to jazz it up too much or try to sound like someone else, my stuff falls flat. Every. Time.
If you want to tell me how good the pizza you ate last night tasted, tell me as if I’m sitting across the room from you. Don’t tell me it made your taste buds dance if you’d never say that in person. If you’d tell me that the crust was the perfect combo of crunch and chew, then write that! If it made for a great hangover breakfast the next morning, write that too. Make like you’re having a conversation with me. When we write like that, we sound more relatable and we get our point across more effectively.
2) Don’t Try Too Hard
Growing up, when I’d come home and complain about a teacher’s pet or a manipulative queen bee at school, my mom would always say, “Oh, she’s just a Try Too Hard!” My fiancé and I have adopted this in our own conversations, but we’ve shortened it to ‘TTH’.
Don’t be a TTH, and especially don’t be a TTH in your writing. Don’t go into a piece sure of the tone you’re going to have. Let the tone evolve as the piece gets rolling. This is a mistake I’ve made plenty of times; I’ll go into a piece trying to sound like a foul-mouthed brassy broad when in reality, my point is more effectively made with subtle humor and sarcasm.
Let the tone find you and then nurture it from that point on.
3) Do Your Research
This might seem like the most obvious advice I could give, but it’s always worth repeating. A real, secure knowledge about your topic is a gift to your process.
Once you have all the facts straight, you’re free - free to write on top the foundation of facts, free to write like yourself.
4) The Thesaurus is Your Best Friend
I know I said you need to write like you talk, but every so often you need the *perfect* word, and sometimes it’s not at the top of your mind. That’s when the thesaurus comes in.
Before I go any further, I need to make something clear: do NOT be a TTH with the thesaurus. Don’t use it for every other word. Use this tool when you’re really trying to come in with a gut punch, or trying to eloquently express where you’re coming from.
A varied vocabulary is something every writer needs in their tool box, and it also serves to set your work apart. Play around with different words, find the ones that serve the sentence the best and make the most sense. That’s where the art of writing lives.
5) Brain Dump
A few years back, I took a writing workshop in which instructor told us about ‘brain dumping’. (That’s a nice visual, huh?) It’s essentially free-writing, but I liked the idea of dumping all your thoughts about a given topic onto a page.
That’s how I like to start a lot of my pieces. I find that while there’s a lot of unnecessary stuff there when I’m done, there’s also some good, meaty stuff that doesn’t come out when I do stop-and-go writing. We’re more honest when we spent five to ten minutes writing without stopping.
Dump it out and see what kind of gems you find. They’re in there.
6) Get an Accountability Buddy
Find someone to read your stuff who really a) knows you AND b) knows good content. I’m lucky enough to live with a writer, but another one of my good friends has had editing experience in the past. I run all my stuff by both of them.
Just recently, I spent too little time on a piece about the importance of living in a city. It had the trappings of click bait and as soon as my ‘editor’ read it, he called me out on it: “This sounds like something that would be on a sign sold at Target.” And you know, he was right. It was crap. I felt it when I was writing it. When you have someone who knows you and your voice well, it’s hard to get inauthentic stuff past them.
7) Be Yourself
I’m going to end this by channeling that poster that hung on the wall in your 6th-grade classroom. You know, the one that said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken!” You can’t accurately convey personality in your writing if you’re being a fake.
I don’t know how to appropriately guide you towards a greater sense of self-awareness in this blog post, but I can say that if you are self-aware enough to know yourself, that should come through in your content.
There are a lot of trends with online content right now, certain types of generic voices. Avoid them at all costs.
The more genuine and original your content seems, the more credible it is.