Somewhere along the line I learned to write academically.
As a kid, I would sit on the floor, research my topic, then rephrase what I read in the encyclopedia or books I found at the library—trying to sound as smart as possible along the way.
I rode the habit through college, where it served me well, and into my writing career—where it did not serve me well.
In fact, my tendency to write in an academic voice rather than my human voice was a liability.
An editor once called me out saying, “This article could have been written by anyone. I want to see an article written by Cat.”
And so began the long road of unwinding my academic comfort zone and trusting that what I have to say, as me, is enough.
It’s taken time and I still have to check myself when I fall back into coasting on content that could have been written by anyone. But it’s gotten much better.
One trick that helps is to focus on writing for one person. As I type this, I’m not thinking about the 3000-plus people who will receive this letter. I’m thinking about my friend who struggles with a stiff, impersonal tone in their content.
Writing with one person in mind ensures that I don’t drift into stuffy, academic writing. My goal is to connect and inform—not impress.
When you create content, whether a blog post, newsletter, Instagram post, LinkedIn comment, video—whatever—focus on one person.
Who are you writing for?
What would you like them to understand?
How can you convey your message as directly (and humanly) as possible?
Imagine walking up to a friend and talking to them as though you were broadcasting a message to the masses rather than speaking directly to them.
You wouldn’t do it, right?
It would be super weird because we’re right there next to each other. There’s a closeness that allows for human communication and connection.
What if you were to transfer that closeness to your writing? How could it transform your content? Do you think it would resonate more or less with your audience and community?
I’ve learned over the years that the content that resonates the most with people is the content in which I’m willing to share as a human—as though I’m talking with you one-on-one.
If you’re an academic, then, by all means, do you. I have profound respect for people who study and convey complex information—even when it takes me a couple of reads.
If you’re a coworking space operator or community-builder, however, loosen up on the academic tone. Unlearn that writing style—at least for your content and community messaging.
Write how you speak.
And focus on writing to one person instead of a sea of faceless people.
It will change everything.
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