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Voice and Tone – Creating content for humans by Kate Kiefer Lee

03 April

One of the highlights of Confab London was the talk by Kate Kiefer Lee. I think this presentation was one of the most mentioned, not just by the other speakers but also by my fellow attendees. My notes may be a little bit crap and disjointed, but hey, If you want ‘proper’ notes then read the pro version or check out the slides.

If you like it rough-n-ready, read on.

Voice and Tone – Creating content for humans

– Kate Kiefer Lee, Content Curator MailChimp.

Our voice and tone of voice are based on people at other end of content.

Get this into a style guide. We have a lot of power by using our content. It’s fun getting people to do stuff customers are human they are people just like us

Find your voice

Ask questions:

  • What does your company do?
  • Why do people visit your website?
  • If your brand was a person, how would you describe him or her?
  • How do you want people to feel?
  • Look for emotional feedback, watch their eyes light up.

MailChimp is:

  • Fun but not childish
  • clever but not silly

Deign persona (Aarron Walter)
Voice guidelines
The Yahoo Style Guide is used by MailChimp. You can edit for grammar not voice and tone.

Sloppy writers can be better than good ones because they can get the right tone

Speak onto the page Vernacular Elegance

“A good teacher I know, Jennifer Auger, has a simple but effective technique for the writing classroom. When her students have blah voiceless writing, she makes them speak the following words to her before reading their text: ‘Listen to me, I have something to tell you.’”

– Peter Elbow
Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing

Read it out loud which puts us in a conversational frame of mind.
Read to a certain person in mind.
Watch your tone change as you read.

Content types

Mascot jokes, an extra layer of humour.
To Compliance Alert
Huge range of emotions

To determine your tone of voice, consider:

  1. Content type
  2. The reader’s emotional state

Ask yourself:
What situation is the reader in when she reads this content?

Sensitive content types

  • Help content
  • Contact page
  • FAQ
  • Forms
  • Privacy policies and terms of use
  • Failure messages and alerts

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader”

― Robert Frost

Voice and Tone Guides

  • VoiceandTone.com
  • Tufts University’s Voice and Tone Guide
  • IU Alumuni
  • Be.Macmillan cancer support guide. Be positive plain English think about your reader
  • Gov.UK’s style guide Welcoming reassuring plain English

Wrong tone of voice

This is your moment of glory.

Comparing unsubscribe pages from Obama and Romney.

“The consumer is not a moron. She is your wife”

― David Ogilvy

Mint 404 page

Product pages are a great place for humour.

Know when to keep a straight face.

Be honest.

Warby Parker’s writing guide

Love what you do

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

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