A few weeks ago, a friend who’s applying for a new job asked me to check his cover letter. He knows I have a background in hiring and career advice; so wanted to get my thoughts.
The content of the letter was great. He did a great job explaining why he’s a good fit. My only feedback was that his cover letter didn’t sound like him at all! It sounded like something anyone could write.
“This letter doesn’t do your personal style any justice,” I said. He’s a person with a cheerful personality who’s really thoughtful. But I couldn’t sense that in his letter.
A writing style is unique because of the writer’s personality. I think we all know that intuitively
But when many of us start writing, we hide our personality. As a result, our writing becomes weak. Sometimes, we even do it without noticing. Here’s why:
- We care too much about what other people might think. We’re trying to impress. Especially when we’re writing for specific readers, like potential employers or publishers.
- We compare ourselves with writers we admire. This happens a lot to fiction and non-fiction writers/bloggers. We try to emulate others too much.
- We lack confidence in our writing. So we try to hide behind fancy words and jargon.
- We’re used to writing under industry formats, like academic or legal writing, that after some time we forget our personal voice.
We consider many things when we write something valuable; cover letters, articles, books, etc. Writing is a form of thinking after all.
So how do we ensure our writing reflects who we really are? The solution is simpler than most people think. Here it is:
Read your writing out loud
This is such an obvious thing that most writers can’t be bothered doing it. They might go over a piece of writing 20 times to check for typos or other grammar errors. But that’s not what makes your writing more effective.
Forget about impressing people or trying to sound smart or getting a 100% perfect Grammarly score. You can edit everything later.
Focus on your style.
Don’t just read it in your mind. Actually speak the words.
Does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, you probably will stumble when you’re trying to read it out loud.
When we truly listen to what we’ve written, we detect what’s wrong or weak with our writing. We can point out which words, sentences, and statements sound unnatural or forced or pretentious.
Because that’s what unique writing is all about: Writing that sounds like you.
You wouldn’t enter a prospective employer’s or client’s office spouting buzzwords like “go-getter” or “thought leader” or “entrepreneurial spirit.” I don’t know about you but I don’t hear that type of stuff during the first time I meet someone.
There are many writing “hacks” and tips on the internet nowadays that we sometimes forget why we write in the first place.
Writing is a form of communication. We’re trying to say something to someone, whether that’s an online audience, an editor, or a prospective employer/client. So just communicate your thoughts and ideas genuinely.
Want to have a unique writing style? Don’t try too hard
Bad things often happen in life when we try too hard. Have you tried chasing money? Trying to make someone fall in love with you? When we try too hard at anything, we usually fail.
This applies 100% to writing. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and miss the bigger picture. We tend to use words we think people want to see. Or try to sound smarter and more impressive.
This happens when we’re afraid that people won’t understand or appreciate what we’re saying. But over-explaining rarely works. And in the long run, that’s unsustainable because it makes you despise writing.
If you want to have a clear, persuasive, and unique writing style; read your writing out loud and see if it sounds like you. That’s the key to being unique.
Do this often enough and you’ll see the parts that need more work. And you could tweak those accordingly. Over time, you’ll find yourself improving both your thinking and writing process.
My online class ‘Effective Writing’ is open for registration until February 6. More than 900 people have used this program to make their writing more clear, credible, and persuasive.
Learn more here: members.dariusforoux.com/effective-writing