Somewhere along the line I learned to write academically.
Maybe it was in junior high writing English essays, or using our family’s encyclopedias to write high school history papers.
I would sit on the floor, research my topic, then rephrase what I read in the encyclopedia or books I found at the library.
I picked up the habit and rode it through college, where it served me well, and into my freelance writing career, where it did not serve me well. At all.
In fact, my tendency to write in an academic voice rather than my human voice was a liability.
An editor called me out once saying, “This article could have been written by anyone. I want to see Cat’s article.”
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 thousands of people who may read this post, I’m thinking about my friend who struggles with a stiff, impersonal tone in their newsletter.
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.
Who are you writing for?
When you create content, whether a blog post, newsletter, Instagram post, LinkedIn comment, video, whatever, focus on one person. Who are you writing this for? What would you like them to understand? How can you convey your message as directly 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 humanness to your writing? How could it transform your content? Do you think it would resonate more or less with your audience and community?
Content that resonates
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 a couple of reads.
If you’re a coworking 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. Focus on writing to one person instead of a sea of people.
We’ll notice and appreciate it.
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