Wargaming Tradecraft: Communicating with your Readers

Communicating with your Readers

There are many ways that you can communicate with your readers and different styles are appropriate depending on the type of article that you are writing. Loquacious has a good post here that discusses not just the importance of being an expert at what you're talking about and having a niche, but also why it's fine to not have all the answers and instead be pretty good at a bunch of different things. (Jack of all, master of none) This led to a post from Thor where he looks at talking with both authority and knowledge. The following are tips you can pay attention to when you are writing and involves style, grammar, slang and tone.

Casual Format

Most of us are typing pretty casually at times and there's no thought put into HOW we're saying what we're saying. This is appropriate for most situations because we should create a friendly atmosphere with our readers. Really, the sky's the limit when talking casually - almost. (slang is just shiny, but there are certain things to watch for that I'll cover under Language and Tone) Some of the writing tips later under "Essay Format" can also be incorporated into casual discussion to add a certain amount of professionalism while still keeping things light.

All of us will take a little while to fall into our writing "groove" as we get more comfortable. Be positive, don't get too serious or too goofy but do entertain. Keep the atmosphere friendly and inviting.

I think grammar and spelling are still important at all times as you want your blog to be readable and understandable. If your grammar is worse than Google Translate, with terrible spelling, you're probably going to need some extra serious blog content to repair the damage to your credibility. If you've got a word processor like Microsoft Word, run some of your articles through it to see what it suggests. (If you need, Open Office is an excellent free alternative) I write all my posts in Google Chrome, which has a built in spell (not grammar) check for all form fields. (writing blog posts, posting to a forum, responding in a comment, etc)

Dialog

I can't emphasize this enough - get to know your readers. If all you do is write article after article and never respond to email or comments or share on blogs with similar topics then you are writing for yourself, not the community. If someone talks to you about what you're writing about, respond and communicate with them, at least thank them for their feedback. Find similar blogs and share your thoughts in their comments. Find out who your readers are - when a non-anonymous comment is posted, click their name and see if they have any blogs, twitters, etc.

It's actually nice to get to know the people you're communicating with and to hear other opinions - look at it as if you were hanging out with friends or at the local shop. If someone talks a bunch but doesn't get to know anyone, then they're considered to be self-involved. When you have conversations with friends, you know the audience, and are able to change the topic slightly, be more interesting, and all in all have a better discussion. Getting their input back is just as interesting.

Think of it this way: If you gave a lecture at a university, what's the better scenario? Being walked in, lecture, leave, or spending some time after the lecture to hear what people in the audience thought and responding to their opinions? If your answer is along the lines of "who cares what the audience thinks" then you need to adjust your attitude.

I'm about to get into the tone of your articles, but when you're dialogging with readers, actually consider their opinions when they're not exactly the same as yours, and remember that as a hobby, there are plenty of different ways things can be done. Rather than turn down someone else's ideas, either acknowledge them as valid options or tell them why you're dismissing them.

side note: This can be a tricky distinction for younger (and some older) people who are breaking away from school or group mentalities and trying to find their own individuality. We're told "It doesn't matter what bullies think" or "Don't conform to peer pressure" so insistently that it's sometimes difficult to get back to "I should consider the opinions of others when I make decisions for myself."

Language and Tone

When you're communicating with your readers, be aware of how you're treating them. Watch the language you're using and tone that you're writing with. The wrong type of writing can and will turn people away from your blog faster than lack of content. (Think of "words" as weapons and "tone" as the way we use them)

While Wargaming Tradecraft is PG, I won't swear, but some blogs will, and y'know what? That's fine - it's become part of our language, often to make a strong emphasis. What to watch for is when cursing surpasses emphasis and becomes part of regular speech. There are other words and terminology that should be avoided - those that are sexist, racist, stereotypical, etc. (no matter how much you insist you're "taking it back") For example, constantly referring to women as something like "burgers", (anyone else remember that episode from the Cosby show? Just me?) pulling a Kramer or telling certain jokes.

Tone also becomes important because you don't want to seem like you think you're better than others. There's no way this blog would have been received nearly as well if I thought that since I have all this knowledge to share, I'm better than all of you - which usually comes across in the writing. Even things like being able to take criticism, admitting you're wrong, or seeing other perspectives rather than brushing people off is important. Also very important is to stay positive - for example, don't belittle your readers with comments like "blah blah blah, and to help you guys that failed math, blah blah blah." Yes, you have information, yes it will help people to share it, but don't use that to put others down or prop you up.

Can you do these things if you want to? Absolutely - free internets. Just remember: People don't know you and sarcasm is very difficult to translate into text; everything you say paints a picture of the sort of person you are and online that's ALL anybody has to know you.

Never Post in Anger or Passion or drunk, etc

Generally speaking, it's a good idea to write posts ahead of time and schedule them to post later. This allows you a few re-reads to clear them up and self-edit making you a stronger blogger. More specifically, you should always sit on a post for a few days if you're anyway out of your normal frame of mind. Usually these will be times that you're upset about something, but could include anything from some amazing idea you've just had to being drunk.

Again, readers only know you for what you write, which means that a single pissed off post can ruin your image, a single too-passionate post can make you appear less credible and a single drunk post will make you appear like that friend we all have who shouldn't have access to their cell-phone while drinking.

Essay Format

When shifting gears from the typical style of a blog, to talk about an important topic, also shift how you are writing. Other times to write like this would be if you are discussing a highly debated topic. While this will distance you from whomever is reading your information, it has the benefit of appearing professional and raising you as a trusted source of data. No matter what you are writing about, a certain amount of credibility is immediately gained through the confidence that is apparent in how you are talking.
When I shift shifting gears from the typical style of a blog, to talk about a topic important to you an important topic, you should also shift how you're you are writing. Other times you could write to write like this would be if you're you are discussing a very highly highly debated topic. While this could this'll this will distance you a little from whomever is reading your information, it's got it has the added benefit of appearing like you're professional and raising you as a more trusted trusted source of data. No matter what you're you are writing about, a certain amount of credibility more credibility credibility is immediately gained gained through the added confidence confidence that's that is apparent in how you're you are talking.

The above two paragraphs say the same thing, but the first one commands more authority, which means you are taken more seriously.

  • Remove any suggestion that what you are talking about is just opinion. (When "I shift")
  • Avoid referencing yourself or the reader whenever possible. ("to you")
  • Remove any language that would imply you are simply suggesting the things you are talking about - be commanding. ("you should")
  • It is more professional to spell out contractions. ("you're" becomes "you are")
  • Remove any casual or unnecessary language that doesn't add anything besides making sentences longer. ("simply" suggesting)
  • Remove language that is redundant. ("added" benefit)
  • Stick to the dictionary and avoid slang.

Take note of how these paragraphs are telling you what to do. They are not making suggestions, they speak definitively, they are presenting facts. They do not imply that any of the information read is opinion and do not use casual language to connect with whomever is reading this. These paragraphs sound credible and are immediately easier to believe because of that. This is something to be aware of when reading to see if you are being tricked into believing something just because it sounds good. Compare the writing in this section of the post to that at the beginning as an example of professional vs casual writing.

When speaking with authority, cite your sources of information and link to other credible sources to back your ideas up. You should also remember that when speaking professionally like this, the tone can be blunt and offend people or make you appear high and mighty if you are too direct about things. Take extra time to edit and clear up your language.

*TheWife is actually the one who pointed out to me the importance of using professional language and helped me edit Bringing a New Style to the Hobby in order to do so.


10 comments:

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  3. haha! You got spammed and the spam bot promoting a writing service can't even spam with proper grammar.

    Anyway, very good article. This series is coming together nicely.

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  4. Thanks for mentioning the article again. It really spawned a lot of consideration and deliberate thinking on my part- and how I approach my blog.

    I've tried to keep the same general tone all the way through, but I'll admit my weird snarky Cake-like humor was much more evident in the beginning than it is now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think the people who can get away with extreme sarcasm and fanbase abuse are the people who deliberately erect barriers between themselves and their fanbase, i.e. by not responding to comments or being selective about the environments in which they do so and the comments they choose to respond to. I was quite interested in the changes in and around Zero Punctuation of late, when Yahtzee began using his written columns to respond to fans in a more considered manner than usual. I'm assuming that unrelenting wankbait gets boring after a while.

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  6. Glad you're all enjoying this off-topic series.

    @Von: I think you might be on to something there.. by being "generally" sarcastic, while distancing yourself from people it can come off as less hostile as comments are directed into the void rather than at anyone in particular. Maybe like the comedian on the stage who uses shock humour vs the comedian who pulls a Kramer.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm really enjoying this series.

    Late last year we made a few mistakes in terms of the content we were putting up on our blog.

    Comments from yourself and others eventually helped us realise that consistency in the tone and content of what you produce is vital.

    Reader come back for more of the same. Not necessarily about the same things, but more of the same style and quality of content.

    You exemplify this with your polite and expressive style which is consistent throughout your content.

    The back to basics series was written in a similar tone to this blog-fu series and I think that familiarity is what makes it work so well.

    Each blog can develop it's own voice, if you will.

    We look forward to the next instalment.

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