I often get many people emailing me with questions such as How do I write about personal topics? How can I motivate people with my articles? and How do I give advice without sounding preachy?
I usually try and answer the best I can, but the truth is that there are many different writing styles, and quite a few are appropriate for personal development articles.
After replying to a few of these emails, I decided that it would be useful if I tried to condense a few of my own techniques into an article so that many others can pick up a tip or two for their own writing. I also encourage you to add your own comments so that we can help build this into an even greater resource for budding bloggers and freelancers!
1. Use lists. I practise what I preach, and so this article will be in list format also. Lists are a brilliant format for relaying advice on the internet because they are appealing to the eye, they're easy to skim and pick up chunks of knowledge, and they help give the article a good structure. By habit, you'll try to keep the list items to a similar length, which will help make the experience more enjoyable for the reader.
A visit to the Digg.com homepage will show you how powerful lists are in capturing attention. At any one time I would expect 1/3 of the websites featured there to be lists. For the very reasons I gave above.
2. Speak about your own experiences. Try and capture a balance between making the article a biography, or including so few self references that the advice sounds arbitrary and distant. With experience (and possibly reputation) comes authority, which is incredibly important for readers of leadership articles. Anyone can dispense advice, but internet surfers will only sit up straight and listen to leadership authors whose words carry weight.
Think of it like personal branding. By reffering to experiences and events in your life, you're helping to establish a credibility and loyalty that will suck your reader in. It helps to create a unique experience that they won't find on an advice website like about.com.
3. My final piece of advice in this brief article is to keep your writing light and informal. Professional leadership bloggers have a skill at writing in a friendly and chatty style without looking like an amateur. They manage this in two ways. One reason is that what they have to say is well thought out and smart. Professional writers spend plenty of time planning and writing their article - often far longer than you'd imagine. The second reason is that they use tasteful humour to good effect.
You may want to look like the absolute authority on a subject, but let me assure you, the best way of going about doing that is not to sound like a lecturer. The best way is to relax, and appreciate that you have the confidence and security to not need to use long words to 'convince' your readers that you know what you're talking about. Once you loosen up, your readers will respond, and you'll start sounding more like a proffessional leadership writer.