This is a guest article from Donna Freedman, who writes about personal finance for Money Talks News and many other sites, and she blogs at DonnaFreedman.com, a Plutus Award winner for Best Frugality-Focused Personal Finance Blog. This article was adapted from a presentation she gave at FinCon12. Fun fact: She is the only person to have spoken at all four FinCons.

Donna Freedman

The phrase “content is king” gets bandied about a lot in the blogosphere. But this assertion needs an adjective: great. No matter how compelling your topic, bad writing (or even mediocre writing) will have readers looking for the exits.

Click! Hear that? It’s the sound of someone leaving your blog midway through a dull or confusing post. To get people to stick around you need great content, or at least really good content — and the surest way to deliver it is to develop an unmistakable voice.

Face it: People can get information in plenty of places. What makes your site worth visiting?

Your voice, that’s what. It will bring readers back again and again to see what’s going on in your world, and to learn how to make sense of their own.

Find Your Voice

Look around the blogosphere. How many genuine voices do you hear? Too few. As a reader I want to hear irresistible tales told in evocative ways. If I don’t hear it? Click!

How do you find your voice? Start by listening to it. Read your last few posts out loud, to yourself or to someone else. You’re more likely to notice run-on sentences, irrelevant facts and the like when you hear them vs. think them.

Here’s an old but still useful tip: When you sit down to write, think about what you’ve learned and how you would tell a friend about it. How would you convey not just the facts but the excitement, fascination or terror you feel about your subject?

You probably wouldn’t do it AP-style for a friend. Don’t do it to your readers, either.

Consider print journalists, who have 10 to 20 inches (350 to 700 words) to tell what happened, what caused it to happen and what might happen next. Some of their techniques apply to blogging. For example:

  • They assume a certain amount of collective knowledge. Likewise, you don’t need to explain everything that led up to the recession, or list every possible reason people might end up in credit card debt.

  • They attribute things that the average reader might not know. In the personal-finance blogosphere, that might mean explaining an obscure tax law.

  • They answer the famous 5 Ws: who, what, where, when, why. Make sure you do, too.

  • They use the best and most evocative information they can get. But they don’t use all of it. Don’t include every fact you uncover, either.

  • They tell us why what they’re writing matters. Suppose a drought ravages the Midwest. Get some evocative figures from the USDA and lead off with something like, “You’ll be paying 20 percent more for a lot of your groceries in the coming year. Blame that hotter-than-usual summer in Kansas.”

About attribution/explanation: Don’t feel you have to set up or qualify every point you’re going to make. You’re the one telling the story, so just tell it.

Re facts and details: More of these won’t necessarily make your point. In fact, they might derail it. Do you have friends who constantly go off on tangents when they’re trying to tell you something? You know how you think, “Get on with it!”?

So use fewer words but choose them with care. Make each word work hard. Very hard.

Keep your voice in the forefront of every post, even a quick-turnaround piece about the latest implosion at a big bank. Remember: New readers may be stopping by every day. Subjecting them to the Blah-Blah-Blah Factor won’t make them bookmark your site. (Click!)

Be unique. Tell stories that matter. Make your voice unmistakable — and make it yours.

Thanks to Donna Freedman for lending her voice to the Plutus Awards. If you have tips you’d like to share with others in the financial media community, contact Luke.

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