Yes, I know what you're thinking, "Blogs don't have voices. They can't talk for goodness sakes."
Oh, but they do. Blogs can have such beautiful voices that they make you think you've died and gone to heaven. Or they can make you feel like you're in hell. From word choice to punctuation, blogs can speak.
My Dad used to have me edit his writing back in the day. I'd take my red pen and mark it up. Then I'd ask him, "Dad, why did you make all these mistakes? You know better."
My Dad looked at me and replied, "Caroline, I write like I speak. It's who I am."
And in looking back at when I was so strict about my grammar and writing, I realized that my Dad really wasn't making grammar mistakes at all. He was writing with his voice. My Dad was a compelling speaker. He was one of those who commanded a room, and when speaking, everyone listened carefully. Additionally, he was a terrific oral storyteller carefully commanding his audience and orchestrating the suspense with each word and pause.
And that's how he wrote.
And how I write now is definitely not how I wrote back then, at least for certain audiences. You see, your voice in blogging is tied to your audience. We've already established you want to take your blogging to the next level so you're not reading this blog because you are only blogging for yourself. With your blog, you are talking to your audience. This mindset affects your word choice, your punctuation, and, in fact, all of your grammar.
This is a difficult concept for most, at least it was for me, because in school we're only taught one way to write usually ~ formally. However, we don't [or at least I don't] speak formally all of the time. There is a time and place for formal writing and for informal writing. They both can be extremely powerful when used in the right situation.
Which one is the right one to use for your blog? I don't know. I'm a Texan. Hardly a phrase comes out of my mouth that doesn't have a contraction. And I tend to start many phrases with 'and' and 'but'. One thing is for sure, if you read my blogs, you don't have to meet me in person at a conference to know what my voice sounds like. But that's because I predetermined who I was going to talk to with my voice, and how I was going to write so that you could hear my voice through my writing. You see, I wanted to talk to you so I used the words in my writing in the way that I would use them if we had met in person. I may be wrong, but there aren't too many people walking around and speaking formally with one another.
Cousin Hunters ~ This category is easy. If you were to meet a newly-found cousin for lunch, would you speak to them conversationally or would you speak to them formally? Which one do you think they would respond to better? My money is on 'conversationally'. When blogging, you want to not only snag a potential cousin's attention, but you want them to contact you. So don't bore them with how smart you are. They're going to think you're smart already because you have a blog with photos and stories about some potential common ancestors. You've already caught their attention. So don't scare them away with formality. [And if you need someone to say it out loud, here you go: "You can break the grammar rules on your blog if you want! You're free!]
Genealogical Societies ~ This category is a little trickier. You don't want your members and potential members to think you don't know proper grammar. I mean, you want any and all people to join your society who want to, and that includes those who are sticklers for grammar as well as those who, um, like to break the rules a bit. A good gauge might be how your members talk in an in-person meeting. I live in southeast Texas. I've not been to a society meeting where someone spoke formally. And this is why a blogging voice for a genealogical society can be tricky. You will need to find that middle ground. Opting for all formality will scare away potential members, especially young ones. My advice? Remind yourself who you are talking to when blogging. How would you speak to a member or a potential member in person?
Professional Genealogists ~ You have formal writing down to an art form. After all, it's what you do for a living. And it's very important that your reports are formal. If you were to meet your potential client in person [and maybe you do], would you [do you] speak in the same formal voice that you write your reports in? I know. You're in a tight spot just as genealogical societies are. You want to make a good impression, but you don't want to scare away potential clients with a formal voice in blogging. My advice? Pretend you have just walked in to your local Chamber of Commerce [Remember those?] for the monthly breakfast meeting, and you're there to network ~ to meet potential clients as well as to meet other business people. [After all, you never know when you might need a helping hand from a fellow business person.] What voice would you use when speaking with them knowing you'd like to be their genealogist if and when they need one?
Don't just find your blogging voice. Find the right blogging voice that will help you attain your blogging goals.