I’m reading a book at the moment. I was bought it because it was felt I might enjoy/relate to the subject matter. What I’ve actually found is that I’m not a huge fan of how the subject matter is handled, but I am a fan of the way in which this person writes: neat, short sentences. Full stops where a colon would’ve done. Chapters that are just two pages long. Little witticisms sprinkled throughout.
When I went to write something personal I’m working on, a couple of hours later, I found that I was trying to emulate this writer.
I stopped myself.
I like Charles Bukowski, but I’m not about to write in a crude, rough-around-the-edges style.
I like Aldous Huxley, but I’m not about to write in a lyrical or near-scientific way.
I like Seamus Heaney, but I wasn’t writing poetry.
I like Caroline Aherne, but I wasn’t writing comedy.
The point is – no matter who your influences are – you have to find a way of writing like you; truly, authentically you.
You have to write in a way where people know ‘ah, this is an email from Sarah/Dan/Mike’.
Having your own default style is particularly important if you’re writing copy or content: how else are you going to check if you’re writing in a different tone of voice – the tone of the brand you’re working on – if you can’t benchmark it against your ‘normal’ tone?
Interestingly, I’ve often found that, within organisations, it’s the people who say ‘I can/anyone can write copy’ who often can’t write in any tone other than their own.
Conversely, it’s the people who lack the confidence to write copy, or say ‘I’m not very good at writing stuff’, who seem to ‘get’ writing in another tone other than their own.
Whatever the case, you have to develop a tone that is uniquely yours – across your emails, your CV, social media, your website (if you have one), your personal statements, and anything else that needs your stamp on it.