So I’m plugging away at the book Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, EBooks, Webinars, etc… and one of the interesting points the authors make in the first few chapters is to write like you speak.

From the book:

“Are you human? Are your customers? We thought so. […] We are imploring you to create content that sounds as though a person, not a corporate department, fashioned it. How? Simply: write the way you talk.”

The authors go on to instruct writers to drop the marketing talk, the jargon, the words that only people in your industry use, and the random quotes. Relax. Use stories from actual people and not the head of your random administrative department. (I’m guilty of doing that – “Hey administrator! Approve this quote please!”) Use loose grammar rules and start sentences with “and” and “but.”

Sounds great, but… I have to wonder: what’s our tone, as a library? I know how I speak to patrons (kindly, I hope, and with humor), but when you think about the traditional tone of a librarian, what do you think of? Be honest. Remember this article from 2011 that made the rounds: Ever Met the Stern Librarian? Here’s a bit from the article:

“If you have, by any chance, not experienced the horror of dealing with a typical librarian, then count yourself as one of the lucky ones. I have yet to come across a kind librarian in all my 20-something years on the planet.”

Finding a tone that’s authentic to you, the content writer, your administrators, and your readers can be easier said than done. And if you have more than one person working on your site? Good luck.

So far the idea of “speaking human” has given me more questions than answers; I hope to be able to resolve some of these soon. Stay tuned!



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