Thursday, 12 September 2013

Blogging with passion to give you authority

Everyone knows that blogging, with relevant and timely posts, is good for your SEO. It drives traffic to your site. 

In something like the way you know eating green vegetables make you healthy - it's enough to do it and trust that it works, because it does. 

However, your blog is also an excellent way of demonstrating your expertise and specialist knowledge. 

If you create regular posts where you talk with authority then you'll start to become known as an authoritative voice on that subject. 

For example - and here I get to the point of the Starsky and Hutch photo - an interesting thing happened to me the other day. 

When I'm not writing for other people, I'm tapping away having fun and creating posts for my own family blog. A couple of months ago, I'd written a post about who I had my first crush - Starsky was one of them, if you must know. 

Then I forgot about it. Only a week or so ago I got an email from a producer of the Mark Forrest BBC radio show. They were talking about teenage infatuation with celebrities and would I mind talking about mine. I didn't mind and that evening Mark interviewed me live on his show. 

Of course, fond memories of an American cop show isn't going to earn me any additional business directly, however, several people said they'd heard the show and it prompted them to visit my blog and see what else I'd written. 

The point is if you use your blog to discuss the things you want to get know for being an expert on then, before long, people looking for that expertise will find you. 

All you need to do is talk about what you're passionate about (in a grammatically correct and well tagged post) and the readers will come. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Snappy advice about photos for your blog

create your own images using pic monkey
Blue sky thinking

Your blog will look better - more interesting and attractive if you add some images. Not only do they illustrate the point you're trying to make, but they break up blocks of text making them more tempting to a potential reader. 

But you can't just go taking pictures from anywhere you like willy-nilly. In general they belong to the person who took the photo - not the person featured - and you can't just help yourself. 

Publishing a picture credit or link back to the source isn't going to cut it. Instead, here are my suggestions for images you can use. 

Take your own. The easiest source of images is your own camera - the one on your phone is good enough. Just remember to wipe the lens clean of finger marks and hold it still enough to focus. 

Make your own. If your photos are a bit, well, meh you can try the various fancy (and free) editing features on PicMonkey to make it more interesting. You never know, you might even look like you planned it all along. 

Enhanced photo
I took this one of Mark from Black Cab Quotes and, hopefully, rescued it
from being me with a bit of editing
Create your own. You can also use PicMonkey to add words or to create collages. Try something different and start with a screen grab if you fancy. 

Beg and borrow. Just ask. Often the owner of a striking image on a blog or other website will be delighted to share it with you - just ask first. Manners and all that. Actually it's more than good manners, taking someone's image is theft.

Use creative commons. Search for images on Flickr, the huge image hosting website, that are under a creative commons licence. That means the owner is happy for people to use them. Just check the conditions of use and comply with them.

Other freebies. Sites such as Dreamstime, Morguefile, Stockvault and DeviantArt have photos you can download for free. Just read the small print first. 

If all else fails, pay a photographer. A radical idea here - but the best person to supply excellent photos of your business to illustrate your blog might well be a professional photographer. 

Improve the photo's value. Your blog photos can also form part of the mix that lets people find your blog posts in a search engine.

  • Give the image a relevant name, don't leave it with whatever name the camera created. 
  • Add a caption, description and alt-tag. 

These things will help signpost the way to your post, your blog and your business.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The blog posts that you don't need to write...

Blogging ideas in a nutshell 

You don't know it but you've already got dozens of post just about ready to go. They only need a minute or two's work. 

Yes, really.

For some folk the idea of a blogging seems like a massive chore - like clearing out the loft or doing the tax return. It really isn't, but sometimes it feels that way.

However you'll be delighted to know that the chances are you've got loads of posts sitting around your desk almost ready to go.

No, neither of us is losing the plot. It's just that anything you've written for your business is potentially the bones of a post needing the slightest tweak.

If you drafted a job advert, that would work. Start with the vacancy and talk about the amazing opportunity your organisation is offering. Outline the kind of team you're building and what the work is all about.

Did you send out any press releases this week? Then use the content on your own blog too. Clearly you thought you had a story to tell the world about. If that's the case tell your blog readers too. It helps to create a story of you and your brand too. 

Staff newsletter? The chances are that some of what you told your workers is of interest to your customers and potential customers too. Perhaps not the minutiae of the canteen opening hours, but that you have healthy food or how you encourage your staff to take their breaks. It all reveals a bit more about the kind of organisation you run. 

Have you written down your idea for something new. Maybe a recipe, a product or a service. Let the world know what you're thinking. The feedback might be useful. 

Something on social media. Was there a facebook update that got people talking? Or a tweet that stirred a response? These are the things you could put on your blog as you clearly pushed a few buttons. 

To-do list. Who cares what's on your to-do list? You'd be surprised. Let the public know the kind of things you do on a daily basis and you're giving them a peep inside your brand. 

Notes from a meeting. As long as you weren't sketching unflattering profiles of your colleagues, then spill the beans. What were your thoughts, what did you talk about? 

If you're stumped for ideas, take a look around inspiration might be closer than you think.

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to get over blogger's block...

writer's block by Marie Coleman via Flickr

I sat down to write a post for this blog, when it happened. 

The ideas that usually fill my head had vanished. Poof. Blogger's block had struck. 

So, obviously, I found inspiration and I'm going to write about how to cure yourself of the dreaded blank mind. 

And the first on the list is: 

Write about what's on your mind right now

Obviously you need to make sure you've got a personal filter installed and operating, but once you're sure you're not going to write about your crush on Alex in the office down the corridor, write from you current experience. You can be fairly sure that whatever you're going through someone else is too. 

Perhaps for your work blog you could write about something that's happening in your business at the moment. Electric fan shops selling out, nursery suppliers talking about the royal baby or rainwear manufacturers twiddling their thumbs.

Look at the calendar

What's coming up tomorrow, next week or even next month. What plans are you making? How are things progressing? 

It's often a good idea not to say everything about a forthcoming event - that means you can come back to the subject without repeating yourself. 

It's been emotional

Always the best posts are ones with some genuine feeling behind them. Passion, love - call it what you will, but it will seep through the words. 

So pause to consider what has fired up the strongest feeling and use that as the subject of your post. This might feel a bit weird if your business communications are normally dry and starchy, but that's the very thing about blogs - they have to be human. 

Look at the list

You remember way back when you were brimming with inspiration? Well the chances are you wrote a list of things to blog about. Go and find it. There will be something you've forgotten. Even, if you're still not exactly flowing with creative juices - get started, you might surprise yourself. 

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery...

Maybe so. Have a look at your favourite blogs and the blogs other people in your industry. Is there an idea there you can 'borrow'? Don't lift things wholesale, but be inspired. If you refer to the post that gave the notion, the original blogger is more likely to be flattered than anything else. 

Call it aggregation or curation and dish up some of the best things you can find on a relevant topic. 

Pose a question

Is there something you're grappling with - a problem you can't quite solve? Then ask the readers of your blog. You might find yourself pleased to see answers flooding in. And if not, you'll at least have found something to post about until real inspiration arrives. 

Find a picture of a kitten

The fall-back of internet people all over the world when they can't think of anything else. Find the cutest image possible and let it do the talking. Awwww.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Why a career in national newspapers is the ideal training for a blogger

I spent quite a lot of my working life on the production side of national newspapers - as a subeditor and night editor. 

That means I got paid to play with words. Retelling stories in the most easily digestible form, making them considerably shorter but still just as informative, and writing catchy headings. 

And yes it was often just as much fun as you imagine it might be. 

However, times change and late night production shifts weren't compatible with small children so I moved on... and into the world of blogging.

But the move wasn't that big a leap because the skills that make a good blogger are exactly the same as the ones that make a good tabloid sub.

An instinct for story telling. It's crucial to understand deep down what it is you're saying. What's the story or the post about or who did what to whom? Not just the topic headline but exactly the point you are making.

Can write for toffee. Or anything else. We're not aiming for the Booker Prize here, but it's quite important to be able to string a sentence together. And to spell, a bit. 

Can see things from the other side. Tabloid folk know how to get out from behind the paper and see what the reader sees. They - and bloggers - must understand how to provide the reader with what they want, how to answer their questions and entertain. 

The ability to grab attention. Can you write a headline that makes people itch to read on? If so, you're in. Blogs, like tabloids only have a titchy smidge of time to capture a reader before the move on to the next shiny thing.

Understanding images. A good picture will always beat words, however beautifully crafted. Deal with it. 

Happy to get down and dirty. Obviously one day I will be a revered author of great literary fiction, however, until then I'd rather have people read stuff I've written because it's funny, pithy and interesting. Who wants high-brow, when there's fun to be had? 

I can also work fast, punctuate properly and swear extravagantly. None of these are essential for blogging, but they can help. 

So if you want to find an exceptional blogger in the crowded marketplace of very good ones, look for one who is used to juggling words for a living. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Annoying mistakes bloggers make

If you spend any time at all reading other people's blogs - for fun or for information - then you'll quickly start getting frustrated by the annoying things therein. 

Here is a round-up of things that have me clicking elsewhere before you can say, well, anything actually: 

Captcha - this is the deeply irritating thing that forces you to copy some squiggly numbers and letters to "prove you are human". I find swearing and giving up also prove I'm human. 

Requiring log ins - Some blogs are set up to make you to sign up or sign in in order to comment. Also very, very annoying. Sure, it's better to make a comment using an identity, but it should be compulsory. 

Out of date content - If I find a business blog - or any blog - that I like the look of or am interested in, it's crushing to then find that there's been nothing fresh for months. 

Bursting posts.Clearly it's your blog, put what you like in it, but all too often there's far too much in one post. If your post is looking quite lengthy, ask yourself if you could chop it up into several smaller ones. 

Big lumps of text. We readers are simply creatures who don't want to have to work too hard. Therefore make it easy for us to consume your delicious content. Use short paragraphs, have a line break between each paragraph, use sub headings and bullet points. 

Follow me, follow you. Have some way that I can follow your blog without having to visit every day. Is there an email sign up, an RSS feed? I like you, but I've got better things to do than stalk you. 

Don't nag. We all know that ultimately a business blog is there to help the business. But there's no need to shout that in our faces. We'll follow, buy, log on or share if we want to so back off and let good content speak for itself. 

Explain things. It's helpful to assume that each post is a standalone thing and that whoever is reading it knows next to nothing about you. It might not be the case, but it means you'll give all the necessary information, introduce the key players and tell the back story.

Now you know what not to do. You can make sure your blog doesn't join the league of irritating, the ranks of the annoying or the army of unread. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Ten ideas for blog posts you can do right now

Keeping your business blog going can be a bit of a chore, especially when you feel like you've run out of inspiration. Well here are some ideas for ones you can do right now. 

What’s new? You’ve got a business, there’s always something going on. Then tell us about it. Have you made a good deal, heard something exciting about a new customer or even found the office cat has had kittens. Let us into your world. 

Who’s there? Shine the spotlight on who you work with. Can you do a quick interview and get a colleague to talk about what they do and why? Quite literally it’s the human face of your business. 

A day in the life. You might think that a blow-by-blow account of what happens at work is about the dullest thing imaginable, but you’d be wrong. Everyone loves to know what other people are up to, what happens in their lives. Let them do a little bit of eavesdropping.

Heard any gossip? Especially if it’s about your business... Obviously you can’t go spreading everything you’ve heard – no matter how juicy – but if everyone’s talking about something then, with a little caution, blog about it. 

Give us some tips. Can you offer a few well-honed nuggets of advice? If you’re an expert – and you are – share a few pieces of your knowledge. It’ll become a resource people will use again and again, plus it’ll tell the world how good you are. 

Answer a few of your FAQs. Do you get asked the same thing over again? If so, then give full chapter and verse of the answer on your blog. It probably won’t stop you getting asked the question, but there’s clearly a need for the answer. 

What’s trending on Twitter/ in the paper? Depending on where you go for your freshest news, see what’s making the headlines. Can you join in the conversation, add to it or have a view? 

Look at the calendar. What’s coming up? It could be a global event or something private, but there’s no harm in looking forward to on your blog. Has your business got something to contribute to an event?
Read anything good lately? If you’ve seen something online that you enjoyed, were impressed by or thought useful, then share it. Just let the person who created it take credit, with links back to their site too as it’s only good manners.
Have some fun. What about a little light-hearted banter. What’s making you giggle this week? What are you up to at the weekend? Is there something that might show the world that it’s not all work and no play.
Remember that there are hardly any new ideas out there, just variations on a few themes. Find some that work for you. 

What are you waiting for?

cute puppy
You could share this cute puppy for a start (from via Flickr)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Why it's OK to get someone else to write your blog for you

You know what's good for you...

Everyone needs a blog - modern business life in our online world insists on it. It's become a little bit like the entrepreneurial equivalent to eating your greens and going to the gym.
It's not surprising then that to some it feels just as much of a chore as stuffing down five a day or working up a sweat. If writing doesn't come easily or you simply have too much else going on with your core activities, it might be even worse.
However, unlike a healthy lifestyle there is a painless way of blogging... Get someone else to do it for you.
You wouldn't think twice about hiring an accountant, a graphic designer or a car mechanic - they are experts after all.
A professional blogger is an expert too. They know how to create bright, tempting content and where to put the posts when they are attractively completed.
They are also brimming with ideas for topics to cover, ways to illustrate your points and an instinct for knowing a tasty offering when they see it.
And an excellent ghost blogger 'gets' you in an instant. They have a sense of you, your business and what you want to communicate. It'll be easier than you ever hoped.
Obviously I would say all of that, wouldn't I? But if the thought of blogging for your business makes your heart sink, then drop me a line.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Things every good blog should have

A way to get in touch
You know how a house isn't a home without heat, light, telly and something to snack on? Well there are some things a blog needs before it can really consider itself to be a blog.

Relevant content - D'oh. Obviously. But it's the relevant bit that matters here. What goes in the blog must be of interest to the kind of people you want to talk to. So, if you're in the business of promoting your business - and let's face it, who isn't? - then tell potential customers something they want to know.

Regular content - You don't need to post every day. But you must put something up there frequently. There's something particularly depressing about a blog started with gusto then abandoned. And you don't want anything depressing associated with your business, do you? Decide how frequently you're going to post - and stick to it. 

Comment - Put somewhere on your blog for people to respond to what you say. They might not, but give them the option anyway. A blog differs from other more traditional business communications because it's part of a conversation. Then attend to your comments the same way you attend to any other important thing. 

Sharing buttons - Imagine the situation where someone finds your blog and considers what you've said to be interesting enough to want to pass on - either to one person or to the whole wide world. For goodness sake, make it easy for them to do so. Provide buttons to let them tweet, facebook, email or whatever. 

Ways to follow - If everything else is right, people will be so interested in what you're blogging about that they will want to find ways of knowing every time you do it. So make sure you have an RSS feed and somewhere to sign up to email updates. 

Images - Words alone are very boring - add pretty pictures to break things up and keep your readers interested. Relevant and informative photos would be best, but anything is better than none. 

A human face - Your blog might be all corporate and professional, that's fine. However, readers still need to know who's doing the writing and why. What have you got to do with the subject? And, always, have a photo and a way for readers to get in touch. 

Friday, 19 April 2013

Your children and the internet: how scared should you be?

by neoneddy on flickr
If you've got children over the age of about four, the internet will feature in their lives somehow. When they start it's quite easy to keep tabs on them and monitor their use of the cBeebies site. 

However, quickly they move on from that and things become altogether darker. 

On the one hand (if the speakers were to be believed) the web is a scary place where danger lurks at every click. Yet on the other, it's without doubt where the futures lies. Broadband is becoming a human right rather than a bit of high tech magic. Plus I like it online, it's my kind of place.

But what are we gonna do then to keep our little - and not so little - chicks safe from the bullies and bogiemen? 

OK, first round up all the things they can get the internet on - phones, Wii, Xbox, laptop, ipad, ipod and tablets - and fix the settings. Parental control and privacy settings - do it for Facebook, Google and Youtube. And make your kid's Twitter account protected. Download free security softwear and switch it on. 

Now forget all about that and drill into them - nothing is private on the net. Again NOTHING IS PRIVATE ON THE NET and furthermore EVERYONE CAN SEE EVERYTHING. OK maybe it seems that they can't but clever sneaky ones will be able to and it's a good rule to follow anyway. 

Tell them to visualise granny seeing what you've just put on Facebook, imagine teachers looking at your blog posts and how about everyone in class watching you writing nasty things about someone. 

Then remember that the internet is full of people - most of whom are perfectly lovely most of the time - just like real life. So there will be pervs and thieves, bullies and bitches just like in the playground, pub and park. 

The best analogy of the night was that if the internet is a place, which it surely is, then treat it as you would any other place. So your child is off to the pool, shopping centre, street corner, friend's house, or anywhere else, chances are there will be negotiations. Where are you going? Why? What are you going to do there? Who else is going? When will you be back? Same deal when they go online - ask them and don't stop until you are satisfied by the answers. 

Apply common sense. 

Of course you can know your child's passwords and check their browsing history (if they haven't cottoned on to deleting it), you can be their friends and stalk them through cyberspace, but the aren't going to like it one bit. And less so as they get older. You wouldn't dream of denying them privacy IRL, so don't expect access all areas online either. 

Apply more common sense.

By all means tell them about the CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) reporting button, show them websites full of advice, but in the end you must talk to them about the internet, let them get on with it, and trust them.

Twitter dos and don'ts

  • Do – be genuine. Try to talk in as human a way as possible. Remember it’s a wee tweet in a flowing river, don’t get knotted up about it.
  • Do – be legal, decent, honest and truthful. It’s useful to apply the ‘would I say this to the person’s face?’ test. If you aren’t sure – don’t do it.
  • Don’t – tweet while angry or drunk.
  • Do tweet regularly, but not too frequently – you’ll find your pace. If you’re not sure aim for two or three tweets a day. If you’re too busy to do this, you can use a programme like tweet you later to schedule your tweets.
  • Do – check regularly for responses, people taking to or about you and respond.
  • Do - follow people back. Generally it’s a good idea.
  • Don’t - link your tweets to your Facebook or linked in profile. They are different things should be used differently. Be careful if your twitter feed appears on your website too.
  • Do - use hashtags. A hashtag is a way of catching all the tweets and twitter conversations on a certain subject. It’s an easy way of fishing the tweets you want to follow from the twitter stream. For example an event like this might use #business&bagel, during a game of sport or tv show, you’ll find tweets on a subject by searching the hashtag #oldfirm or #xfactor, say. It means you can see what people you don’t directly follow are saying.
  • Do - use lists. Once again it helps you find what or who you want quickly. You can create lists of people under a certain topic. For example you could create a bagels and business list. You can also follow other people’s lists – does a competitor have a list of industry people they are interested in? Then you can follow that list too.
  • Do - listen as much as you talk. More than even. Reply to other people – answer their questions.
  • Do - be generous. Share things you like, recommendations and kind words. It goes a long way.
  • Do - be nosey. Use twitter to see what people you’re interested in are saying, what they are posting. Talk to them if you want to get to know them.
  • Don’t - be a stalker. Don’t bombard one person.
  • Do - delegate if you’re too busy. But make it clear which human being is talking, better still start twitter accounts for each person in your organisation.
  • Do - talk privately. Use the Direct message – DM - facility to talk privately when you need to.
  • Do - let people know what’s new – have you written a new blog post or offered a new service for example.
  • Don’t - hesitate to block and report people. Spammers and idiots are a pain for everyone, just get rid of them.
  • Don’t - be miffed if no one replies to you. There are a lot of tweets out there. Have another couple of goes and if it doesn’t work maybe you’re not saying something that‘s engaging people.

The last one – above all 
  • Do relax and have fun – once you get the hang of it, it’ll be the easiest kind of networking you’ve ever done.

Twitter for Business

Why tweet?

  • Twitter can be the easiest kind of networking you’ll ever do.
  • Twitter can be the quickest source of information.
  • Twitter helps you with market research.
  • Twitter is human.

But first things first. How do you get started?

Go to and sign in. Create a profile and have a look around. 

If you’re familiar with Facebook, forget all you know – Twitter is nothing like Facebook. 

Twitter is like a flowing river of chat – you don’t have to read everything. In fact, you’d quickly go mad if you tried to. And, to a certain extent, you can be fairly relaxed about what you say and do as it’ll have flowed away before too long.

Obviously – follow the rules of real life online too – tell the truth and play nice.

Take time to have a look around – follow some people (Everyone follows king of tweeters Stephen Fry) –  but what you do is not binding, you can unfollow people whenever you like.

Experiment. Try searching for some things you’re interested in. Look for your friends and say hello. If someone follows you – if you like the look of them, follow back.

Have a look at people like you and people you like. What are they doing? How do they look?

About now, you’ll decide that you probably need to do something about your Twitter profile. Please upload a photo of yourself that looks like you.  For two reasons - Twitter is the interaction of people therefore knowing what the person looks like helps. And if you do meet them in real life, they’ll know who you are and vice versa. I very much dislike talking to people on twitter if they only have a logo – or worse still, the generic twitter bird logo.

Then fill in a few words of profile. It takes a few goes to get this right. Explain what you do but – above all – be a real person.

So once you’ve got a profile and a few people to follow. What next?

Search for yourself and your business. You might be surprised – hopefully you’ll find positive feedback, but if you don’t you have the chance to talk directly to someone doing the complaining.

Search for your competitors. What are they doing? Can you do it better?

Search key words and terms. Is someone talking about your specialism? Do they want something you can help with? Are they talking about something you need to know?

Search other relevant things.

What are you going to tweet about?

By all means tell Twitter what your business offers – but not all that often. People will very quickly get fed up with it.

Tweet about new things in your business. ‘I’ve just created a new rhubarb and custard inspired wedding cake’. You can tweet pictures – ‘Look at this wonderful cake I’ve created’.

Tweet about your industry – “What do you think of government measures to increase the tax on marzipan?”

Offer your special knowledge generously and for free – what goes around comes around. For example – does anyone want our fool-proof Christmas cake recipe?

You don’t need to limit yourself to business related tweets either. “Did anyone see X Factor last night?” “It’s pouring down here, when’s it going to stop?” Think about that extra room full of people you’d like to talk to. What might you say to them?

Brand journalism: how to write interesting copy for your business

Sometimes it's called advertorial, sometimes it's known as blurb, you might find it on websites or blogs and occasionally it appears on fliers. It pops up on annual reports, brochures and in press releases.

I'm talking about business stories - the good news stuff that you want to use to send people flocking to your stall/shop/office/website. Only, quite often it doesn't, does it?

Mostly it doesn't because it's boring and predictable. Of course you want to tell everyone how marvellous you are, but the end result is exactly the same as the person at a party who wants to go on, and on, and on about their new car, ski holiday or DIY project. Dull as a dull thing in a dull-coloured coat. 

What you need is brand journalism. This means to bring the sensibilities of journalism to your business. 

A journalist saunters around magpie-like pecking at interesting things, turning them over and peering into them for the nuggets and shiny flecks of fascination. They want the story - the news. They are expert in finding things other people want to hear about. 

All you need to do is apply that idea to your business so you can winkle out something instructive, memorable or, even, amusing and offer it to the waiting public. Simple, no?

Ok, let's go back to the party, ignoring the tedious chap with the new car. Go and introduce yourself to a stranger and strike up a conversation. "What do you do? Why's that? How does it work? What's it like?" Before you know it she's telling you all about what really makes her tick, her dreams and her passions. Maybe you've never met someone with her hobby or expertise, so you want to know all about it. You ask for insider tips and advice. 

You might say that you don't want to give away your trade secrets, but it doesn't work that way. Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver make a fortune flogging books full of recipes yet people still queue up to eat in their restaurants. 

Oh and while we're at it, take a long hard look at the words you've written and ask yourself if you are stating the obvious anywhere. Please don't patronise your readers by telling them that the telephone is a good means of communication, that it's cold in winter or that visitors arrive through the door (all things I've seen in the past week). 

Put simply, brand journalism will make your communication more effective because people will read what you write. And if you can't manage it, hire someone else to do it for you. 

How do you find your blogging voice?

The easy, but probably not terribly helpful, answer is just to say “relax, be yourself and your voice will come”.

Eventually, it will, but meantime, a new blogger can easily be discouraged by the supreme effort that all this “relaxing” can take. And how on earth can you be yourself in a whole new world you’re very uncertain of?

In truth, we have a great many voices. Just as we talk to our children, customers, bosses, spouses and dogs each in a slightly different way so we write differently depending on what we are doing and where we are doing it.

I didn’t think I had any difficulty in finding my voice, although when I look back at the early posts it’s clear I took quite some time to virtually clear my throat.

I wasn’t confident that what made me laugh would translate for others and I still hadn’t escaped from the rigid formulas of journalistic or corporate writing.

At first, it’s a bit difficult to hear your own voice amid the yelling of the more strident and the booming of the confident.

Equally, ‘voice’ is something that you can’t strive for or pick off the self. Not an authentic voice any way. You’d only end up with something that wasn’t comfortable in the long run and didn’t sound like you.

So until the day that you suddenly realise you know exactly what you sound like the best thing to do is to follow some basic writing guidelines and, yes, to relax. It will come.

George Orwell, who I’m certain would be a blogger if he were alive, wrote an essay in 1946 called Politics and the English Language.

In it, he listed the following rules: 
  • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

And, of course, his sixth rule. 
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
These alone will lift your writing out from the crowd and give you the space to recognise what your individual style is.

Writing, like anything other skill, takes practice. The notion that there’s a creative genius curled up snoozing inside us all is a bit misleading. I’m sure there is, but, certainly in my case, it’s a very flabby and weedy one.

Therefore, don’t fret too much about the quality of your writing or reach too far to be clever, just do it.

Write your own thoughts in the manner that comes easily – even say the words out loud if it helps.

Only write and keep writing and, sure enough, you – and everyone else – will know your voice.