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Authenticity Matters: 3 Tips for More Genuine Writing

6896999591_ffa595dda0_oAs the web matures, readers are beginning to expect a greater level of quality in the content that they find online. Search engines are adapting to this shift too: Google’s latest “Hummingbird” algorithm places priority on the “why” of a search rather than the “what”. Gone are the un-glory days of  ”articles” (I use that term loosely) stuffed to the brim with keywords and SEO “optimization”. On the new web, succesful content is personal, engaging and real.

As a lens master, your goal is to write content for your lenses that shares your real experiences and knowledge about the world.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with three tips that you can use to improve your writing and shake the bad habits of inauthentic, generic writing.

 

1. Be yourself and write like yourself

When you’re writing, it’s very easy to inadvertently copy the tone and style of other writers. I am especially guilty of this  - the subconscious mind has a powerful ability to shape and alter the way you use language and I find that many of us are natural mimics. When you’re writing your very first drafts, I encourage you to let your thoughts flow naturally. I find that dictation lets me be more spontaneous and creative than typing or writing with a pen or pencil. You can record using a smartphone’s “Notes” features, software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, a hand-held tape recorder or if you are using OS X “Mavericks”, the built-in dictation feature.

When it’s time to check your first draft, look at the writing with a critical eye. Are you copying something you’ve read before? Does your writing sound like the copy from a print advertisement or the voiceover on a TV commercial? If it does, rewrite it as if you are speaking to a friend or family member. Readers are looking for intimacy and authenticity, not fluff and spin.

2. Ask for help and critique from others

It’s very difficult to judge the impressions our writing gives. Our perception of the quality and clarity of our writing will always be colored by our own expectations and beliefs about our abilities. As I mentioned in the introduction we want to write content that’s written from a real, honest place. One of the best ways to judge the genuineness of your content is the critique and commentary of others – it’s not important that the person know you in real life and you may find it valuable to source critiques from people who don’t know you.  Be sure to ask them what impression they get from what you’ve written – does it sound like the work of a real person or a team of copyeditors?

3. Tell me how you really feel

As far as I know, search engines are not yet at the level of being able to gauge the emotional content of a piece of writing, but people are very sensitive to these aspects of the written word. It’s always a good idea to choose subjects that bring you real, honest joy, excitement or even frustration. Choosing topics that really grab you will result writing that’s dynamic, passionate and exciting to read.

Your readers will be looking for clues that help them assess your authority and knowledge but  they will also be able to pick up on your emotional response to the topic that you’ve chosen.

When we write with authenticity, we share our feelings both directly through the words that we choose and indirectly through our phrasing, sentence structure and grammatical quirks. Many of us are accustomed to writing in a formal, essay style that deliberately conceals the author’s thoughts and feelings. I urge you to shake this habit, after all, if your readers wanted Wikipedia, that’s where they’d be.

If you feel your content lacks in authenticity or isn’t as genuine as it could be, try revising it to share more of your feelings and thoughts about the topic. Don’t pack your writing full of idle musing just for the sake of it. Instead, think of the emotional content as a rich spice and insert it sparingly.

I hope these three tips help you to create more authentic, genuine and “real” content. You can use these concepts in new writing as well as old  - revise your lenses often as your skills improve and you will see your audience grow and your body of work will better show your abilities as a content creator.

In closing, I’ll leave you with my latest mantra: “If Content is King, Authenticity is Queen.” 

Photo Credit: poshdee via Compfight cc

How do you keep authenticity when you write?  As a reader, what makes content come across as genuine? Let us know what’s working for you in the comments below.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/MSchindel MSchindel

    Tom, understanding more about Google’s Hummingbird algorithm as well as reading your insights into the type of tone that visitors are looking for online is really helpful. Thank you for sharing them!

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/TomMaybrier Tom Maybrier

      So glad you found it helpful!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/DaveStone13 DaveStone13

    Good stuff, Tom. In my experience the cure is to write every day, write as much as you can every day. Doing that tends to scrape out bad habits and tendencies. You have no choice but to get to your own voice.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/nancycarol nancycarol

    Tom, thank you. It’s always good to see your posts because they’re always full of good tips for our writing. Finding our own voice is sometimes difficult as we tend to try to emulate what we see too often online. After four years on Squidoo, I have many lenses I can call to mind right now that can benefit from a reworking, just because of this post. Thanks again.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/RenaissanceWoman2010 RenaissanceWoman2010

    Won’t it be something else when the algorithms can read emotion? In terms of what you asked, I don’t write about anything I don’t care about. Authenticity, to me, is the act of showing respect toward those who trust you (as a writer, as a reviewer, as a friend, as a human being).

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/TomMaybrier Tom Maybrier

      You’re very correct – being authentic and factual shows that you respect your audience and seek to keep the trust you’ve earned by only sharing what’s real and truthful.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/RockinPicks RockinPicks

    I find using photos I took myself helps keep my writing real.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Colin323 Colin323

    Good advice, Tom. Shaking off the formal ‘academic style’ of writing has been a challenge for me.

    • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Luv2help Luv2help

      Same here, Colin. I usually can find success when interjecting humor into a more stuffy work.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/adventuretravelshop adventuretravelshop

    Really great tips Tom -thanks – I find it easier to write from the heart and I would never consider myself to be a real writer! I enjoy Squidoo because it allows me to write freely. In my work I write reports and recommendations to teachers – writing for Squidoo is so different!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/LPerry60 LPerry60

    The phrase, ” write like you are talking to a friend” has really helped me change my writing style.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/ruthi Ruthi aka abitosunshine

    Amen to every word and tip you shared here, Tom! I have always felt it necessary to sell myself, not my topic or my product. Each day my audience grows and I know I am on the right path.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/Luv2help Luv2help

    I get my ‘voice’ back by reading my own work. I know what you mean about taking on the tone and even innuendos when reading another author’s piece. There will be a day soon enough when personalities will be recognizable with search engines. They’ve (GoogleChrome) come so far as to recognize what form of word is correct/best; it’s scary but true.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/graceonline Kathryn Grace

    Thank you, Tom, for continuing to help us improve our writing skills and add value to our reader’s experience.

    As for your questions, I don’t know how well I succeed at “keeping authenticity,” but I work at it. I constantly put myself in the place of a busy web surfer who is searching for information or has stumbled across the page. Am I on point? Do I deliver on what the title promises? Do I share enough personal back-story without overdoing it? Is my voice active? Do my verbs jump?

    As for what makes content come across as genuine: Content written from the heart, that is to the point and on topic and delivers what the title said it would.

    Turnoffs that leave me feeling cheated? Long lists of links I could have Googled myself, lists of products that are not tied in to the story effectively, and more emphasis on bold and colored fonts, SHOUTING, colorful borders and flashing images than on carefully edited content and appropriate photographs.

    I especially trust writers who show great respect for the photographs and content of other writers and know not to plagiarize.

  • http://www.laugh-quotes.com/ Rhonda Albom

    Thanks Bonnie. As your suggestion above. If it’s a story, I just write. If it’s a researched document I take minimal notes and write from those. This protects me from inadvertently copying, as I don’t even have the original nearby.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/DeniseMcGill DeniseMcGill

    Thanks for the tips. I can always use the help.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/onlynobze onlynobze

    Hi there thanks for the tips. I am a newbie here, and its really great to read some useful ideas just like this. I’m gonna use this tips on my next writings, hoping that I’ll be expressing more of myself on my lenses. Thanks again!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/davdlynch davdlynch

    Thank you for the writing tips; I think I put my emotions (how I feel) into writings, but perhaps I need to read some of my lenses again to see if I really do.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/partybuzz partybuzz

    Thanks for these great tips. There are some great writers on Squidoo, but I’m not one of them. I struggle. Recently, I started a blog. It’s basically a personal diary of the things I do each day and my thoughts about things. It’s like writing to myself. I find that I write more “naturally” there, and I think this will help me on Squidoo.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/River_Rose River_Rose

    I like writing just like I feel. Have been criticized for not being more strict by all the “rules”…. =)
    I am who I am and can’t change that!

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/susan300 susan300

    Love the mantra! :)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/ColonelAntilles ColonelAntilles

    I tend to write the same way that I speak which is very formal and academic in style – I tend not to use contractions, I use long compound, complex sentences and $50-$100 dollar words: when I am writing fiction, I have to read it out loud to myself once I get my ideas down then edit and rewrite before I let someone Beta read it for me. Thanks for the tips.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/aswahayah aswahayah

    Good advice.

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