Consider these two sentences:
The pooch bounced up to her and kissed her face.
The cur launched itself at her and slobbered on her face.
They convey the exact same information—that a dog licked a woman—but they convey two very different emotional scenarios.
Words are powerful. The words you choose will subconsciously affect the way you and your customers feel about your business. In addition, if you subscribe to the concept of manifesting, the words you use can have a powerful effect on the things you bring into your business and your life.
When it comes to understanding your writing and brand voice, we have to dig down to the building blocks that make up our writing — in other words, our words.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to introduce you to some terms you might vaguely remember from high school English class — words like diction, syntax, and tone. But don’t worry! I promise it won’t be a boring grammar lesson, but rather some powerful tools you can use to understand your own writing voice better.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
Diction and your writing voice
Diction is the vocabulary you choose; it’s how you say what you say. People can convey the same thought in very different ways depending on how they choose to say it.
Here’s a nice definition from literarydevices.net:
Diction can be defined as style of speaking or writing determined by the choice of words by a speaker or a writer.
Diction or choice of words separates good writing from bad writing. It depends on a number of factors. Firstly, the word has to be right and accurate. Secondly, words should be appropriate to the context in which they are used. Lastly, the choice of words should be such that the listener or readers understand easily. Besides, proper diction or proper choice of words is important to get the message across. On the contrary, the wrong choice of words can easily divert listeners or readers which results in misinterpretation of the message intended to be conveyed.
So, how does that apply to your brand and blog?
Imagine you are a graphic designer. Your favorite clients to work with are high-end, luxury beauty brands. You want to attract those kinds of sophisticated jewelry designers, make-up, and fashion brands.
But on your site and in your blogs, you say things like, “Hey y’all! Didju see the pix from #fashionwk? OMG! LOL! They was off the HOOK!”
Do you think that’s speaking to your ideal customer?
On the other hand, let’s say you’re a graphic designer whose ideal client is a bluegrass band. You dream of doing their concert posters, tee-shirts, and album art. Are you going to lure them in with words like, “The musical entertainment of the evening was copious and captivating with long melodious stanzas that captivated and intrigued the audience in their musical splendor.”
Probably not. Because that’s not how bluegrass bands (in my experience!) talk.
What is your diction saying about you?
Your brand voice is about you, but it’s also about your customer. What I mean by that is that while your content should absolutely sound like you, you also have to take into account what your customer wants to hear.
Your brand is the best of you, amplified. Some people have built brands around the fact that they are loud, crass, and swear a lot. But just because you swear like a trucker after your first beer or when you stub your toe, doesn’t mean that kind of brand voice is for you.
Likewise, just because you could easily hold your own at a Harvard debate team competition, it doesn’t mean that’s necessarily how you want your brand to sound, either.
Your diction is a combination of what you want to say and what you want your customers to hear.
So what is your diction saying about you? You can use some of the questions below to start to analyze your own diction. Pull up your blog, your business Facebook feed, your tweets, your opt-in ebook, or your course materials and ask yourself the following:
- Are the words you choose more erudite or conversational?
- Formal or informal?
- Positive or negative? For example, blossom has a positive feeling associated with it, while weed has a negative feeling. Plant is neutral. (P.S. This isn’t a value judgement, it’s just about the words you tend to choose.)
- Old fashioned or hip?
- Concrete or abstract? (“Yellow” is concrete; “pleasant” is more abstract. If you cannot picture a specific object, person or place, the word is more abstract.)
- General or specific? (Cat is general; Siamese is specific.)
- Do you swear?
- Do you use “I” or “we” to refer to your business?
- Do you talk directly to your reader, saying “you” do this or that, or do you use “we,” “some people,” or “one” when describing what people do?
Once you have looked at your own diction through this lens, ask yourself what kind of diction your ideal customer has? Not sure? Go find them online and see how they communicate, look at industry publications, look at their websites. You should get a pretty good idea.
Now ask yourself the most important question: Does your diction speak to your ideal customer in their language?
If not, you might need to reconsider how you communicate.
Be the best version of yourself.
There’s a fine line between being yourself, and being the best version of yourself. In my opinion, branding is about presenting the best possible version of yourself.
When it comes to your brand voice or writing style, you want to sound like the best possible version of yourself, too.
Whether you send silly text messages to your BFFs all the time, or enjoy pontificating on the finer points of Joyce every weekend at your local library, you have to consider whether that’s what your clients want to hear.
This also has to do with proofreading and grammar. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I can’t spell my way out of a paper bag! But I rely on spell checker to make me look like I know what the heck I’m doing. I read YA fantasy novels like it’s my job and could explain to you the difference between a tricorder and a sonic screwdriver without thinking twice. I can also swear like a sailor with a toothache when the situation calls for it.
But this is not necessarily how I want to present myself online. 😉
I do want to present myself as honest, friendly, well educated about writing, and easy to talk to. So those are the traits I go for in my writing. I also like to present myself as a little nerdy, a little weird, a little geeky, so those Doctor Who references do crop up from time to time. And I’m OK with that. (You’ll never make a faster friend than when you discover you geek out about the same things!)
Got questions about your diction? Have you figured out what your diction says about you, or do you need a little help? Hit me up in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
8 thoughts on “Brand Voice and The Power of Words: Diction”
As a word nerd, I like think about this kind of stuff. I tend toward to much alliteration, have been inconsistent (and noticing it sometimes) in my shifts between you and we in describing offerings, and rarely swear.
I am aware of the effect of diction, because I know certain words have turned me off or made me feel old or outside the writer’s circle.
Oh, that’s a good one, Sara — being made to feel old or not in with the in crowd! That’s a biggie to watch out for, because even though a blogger may have an established audience, we’re always attracting new readers who may not know what the hey-doodle we’re talking about!
This is great! I find that my diction changes with my mood. I noticed that when I wrote my last post. It seemed more “educated” than my usual conversational tone. I’m not sure which way to go… Is it okay to switch when discussing different topics?
I think it’s natural for your tone to change a little bit depending on your topic. Just watch out that when you sound more “educated” you don’t veer off into the realm of “professor.” If you’re normally very conversational, and your readers like it, and then you switch into mega teacher mode, they may be put off. If it’s just a slight change, I’d say that’s totally normal and OK.