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Writing Lessons, Style and the Invisible Audience

Posted Feb 11 2009 3:59pm

This has nothing to do with repetitive stress injuries but about the way I’ve been writing this blog. Just some thoughts.

I’ve always written this blog with the assumption that it was more important to think about my audience than myself. I’ve had experience with repetitive stress injuries, chronic pain, and health problems that were related, but I never wanted to belabor my own injuries and feelings about them. It never seemed relevant to other people’s experience or lives. I don’t want to bore anyone or be self-involved.

What helped me heal weren’t stories, but facts about injuries, causes and treatments. So when friends and others have come to me for suggestions, that’s what I wanted to provide. I wanted people to have a place to go to find information and resources, to help empower them to take control of their own health and healing. But, even though I know lots of people with RSI’s, most of the people who visit this blog come from search engines, probably looking up an answer to a specific question on their minds.

Early in my career I learned the power of the word “you” — according to marketing studies, reading an article that addresses “you” often raises temperature and heart rate, meaning that an audience becomes more attentive and engaged when they’re addressed directly. A study from Stanford put it at the top of the list for the top 10 most effective words used in marketing. But do you really become more attentive and more interested, when I talk to you? Or do you just think I’m doing marketing speak and trying to sell something?

Another thing I realized early on was that writing in a conversational voice was difficult for me. I graduated with a degree in Literature and minor in Social Psych, where I earned a tendency to write about theory and scientific studies, and in the most convoluted ways possible. I liked using high-level vocabulary and complex sentence structures, adding a zillion clauses to interrupt each sentence. My background writing poetry also inclined me to write metaphorically or artistically, rather than directly and in a forthright way. In short, my prose was a mess.

So I’ve tried throughout my years of writing to make my style more accessible. Writing in the second person, the “you” voice, made that a little easier. But looking back, and reading many other successful blogs, I’ve often wondered whether that is the right choice in this context, eg. if that’s the voice I should be using for this blog.

Although I know a lot about the subject of chronic pain, ergonomics and repetitive strain injuries, I’m not an expert or authority in that I have no medical or health degrees or certifications. So, am I qualified to write in authoritative or commanding voice? Since I’m more of a patient than an expert, would people be more interested or inclined to listen if my voice was more personal–less of the “you should” and more of the “I found it helpful to…” or “it may be helpful”? And if so, how to in an objective or personal voice, without boring the audience?

These are some of the questions I have been considering for this blog. Since it’s mostly a one-girl show, I thought I would toss these ideas up on the net and see if any regular readers or passers-by had any input on the question of style.

So, I am asking your opinions.
When you’re reading a blog online, especially one that gives health info, would you rather it be written objectively or more personally? What influence does the style and voice have on your trust for the blog, and how it influences your behavior?

And then: what do you think of this blog and the style it’s written in?

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