The small business guide to tone of voice

By March 25, 2015Tone of voice

One of the hardest things to do when writing copy and content for your business is getting the tone of voice right. How do you know the right degree of sincerity without sounding smarmy, confidence without sounding arrogant and humour without overstepping the mark?

I’m talking about style or ‘how’ you communicate your business in words. Often we are so afraid of getting the tone wrong, we stick to the tried and tested; a overly formal use of language that gives little away, and makes us appear more distant from the people we are trying to engage.

Tone of voice matters, because fundamentally, it’s about trust. Your personality on paper should be consistent with who you say you are. In other words, your tone of voice is an expression of your brand and your promise.

So, what are some of the things we small businesses should avoid when developing tone of voice? Read on…

1. Over analysing

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our homework and know our facts, but over analysis about how we want to come across can lead to paralysis. Avoid the constant editing while you write and if possible, wait a day before you do so. You’ll have a much better perspective on the tone of voice, and it will be more representative of your natural style.

2. Not being real

A more personable approach might be the trend in writing copy and content for our small businesses, but the ‘personality’ must also ‘ring true’ with our audience. There’s so much more scope for individuality in our times, and as a small business, we are missing out on a golden opportunity to connect with our audience when we don’t bring our real selves to the table.

3. Sounding needy

The tone of voice I am talking about is rarely a stylistic one, but comes from a belief that it’s how you execute ‘call to action’. Being explicit about what you would like the reader to do at specific parts of the copy is different from a piece that screams; “please, oh please buy from me”. ‘Show’ rather than ‘tell’ the reader, through your use of words, why what you do matters to them. This will counteract the tendency of a needy tone of voice.

4. Hiding behind jargon

Your audience want you, not a persona. Imagine someone who represents your ideal customer and client, and write for them. Remember ease of comprehension is paramount, which means the focus is always on being understood. If you do this, you will keep the ego’s tendency to want to reveal how much it knows, out of the equation and the tone.

5. Not giving your copy space to breathe

Imagine the questions that your audience will ask as they read your copy.
Can I trust them? What are they offering? Do they mean what they say? Packing it all in doesn’t give the reader a chance to pause and ask those questions, even though the questions are asked subconsciously. Keep it simple, not conveying too many messages in one piece. When you try to say too much, it becomes difficult to get a sense of the ‘voice’ behind the words.

The point is we can often second guess ourselves when it comes to writing for our businesses. Think of companies with a humorous tone of voice and try to imagine them with an authoritative one, and vice versa. It’s difficult to take them seriously, right? That’s because the tone of voice isn’t accidental, but a logical extension of their brand.

So the real question isn’t, what’s your tone of voice? But rather, what’s your ‘brand’s personality’?

First published on LinkedIn

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