A professional author must be able to write in any given number of “voices” or styles. The question that the website owner needs to ponder and answer, is which voice will better suit the intended audience for their website.
A lot of people will go on about first person, second person and third person voice, but these categories do not always fit into any singular category regarding the overall “voice” or presentation within a website. Rather than breaking things down as an English teacher would, it is perhaps more fitting to address website voice in a manner more consistent and readily understood by the website owner, without having to “go back to school” for lessons we all hated at one time or another.
If the website is a marketing or e-commerce site geared towards selling directly to the visitors, there should most likely be a highly excited and motivated direct address to the visitor. This would be initiated in a less formal and more personal tone, as if the website owner was conversing with the visitor directly. If the website is geared towards a more professional audience, the voice of the website content should reflect that and should likely remain a more distant, yet professional voice.
For news sites, the AP Style Guide is a generally accepted method of writing, avoiding the use of pronouns, hyperbole and any controversial points of view. In some cases, the entire purpose of the website may be to challenge people and to get them to think outside of their comfort zones. The style of voice may vary for this, but it may range from critical to condescending depending on the targeted demographic and the way the website is being monetized.
Personal Voice or Conversant Tones
If I am writing like this, it means that I am relatively safe in presuming that my audience is looking for a more friendly, informal location where they can be made to feel more “at home” as it were. If you want to directly engage with your audience in such a tone, it is probably a good idea to have other means of interacting with the audience and allowing for them to interact with the website, and even indirectly, with the website owner and those who maintain the website.
This is an excellent selection of writing style for hobbies and arts and crafts websites, but also for certain travel sites, and even to generate a more impassioned, emotional response for certain types of sales pitching websites. It is also best to remember that if you are also engaged in podcasting, video production for YouTube and other similar markets and marketing methods, that your “voice” or personally selected style, should remain consistent throughout all different forms of media that you utilize in conjunction with your operations.
In the professional voice, it is best to avoid addressing the visitor directly, in much the same way as is common throughout the more traditional press. Positions may be referred to, though “he” and “she” and other more generic pronouns should be avoided as much as possible, though may be acceptable when it assists in preventing any portion of the article from becoming redundant. The professional voice should not presume to ask any questions that it does not answer in full … with the possible exception of the introduction of an up and coming article soon to be published.
The professional voice should remain clear and concise, but not necessarily abrupt or structured as to put people off. This may include such bad habits as being presumptuous, being condescending of the audience or other manners of speaking that may put off someone who, in accordance with the tone of the website itself, is likely a professional in their own right, or at least working to become one.
When writing for a news site … which should not be confused with the many opinion-editorial or op-ed sites passing themselves off as news sites, it is imperative to retain a neutral tone and also to refuse any and all such language as may lead to confusion.
“The two were working together to put out the fire when he got mad.” When “who” got mad?
News should answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where, why and how … though not necessarily in that order. Whenever it is possible, both sides of the discussion should be presented without the author drawing any conclusions on their own.
News is by definition, merely a presentation of the facts introduced in a complete manner that will allow for the reader to draw their own conclusions. If conclusions are contained within the article, the piece is an op-ed and should be reserved for the Editorial Page and not included as news. While this practice is sadly lacking these days, it remains a good rule to follow if the website is going to be a news and information site that is not restricted by partisan views.
Thinking Outside The Box
While they may not be as common or as popular as they once were, there are still news organizations, periodicals, television programs and a host of other forms of media … including websites, where the sole intention is to get people outside of their comfort zone and encourage them (or occasionally to force them) to think outside of the proverbial box.
In his work as a consultant, the author has been in the very precarious and uncomfortable position of having to bring together people of opposing viewpoints that are intense to say the least. Among these are environmental activists and land developers, politicians from opposing parties and other diametrically opposed individuals. As such, it is imperative that the organizational structure in place, be comprised of people who do not succumb to ad hominem attacks or otherwise seek to confront their opponents in any way that would be perceived as threatening to their system of beliefs.
This has resulted in the need to introduce those people under consideration for such work, to opposing viewpoints in order to judge their reactions and ascertain whether or not they would be well suited for such a role as they would have to engage in to accomplish the desired (and often requisite) results of the operations.
The era of the Shock Jocks on radio seems to have died out with the nineties, though there are some that remain, generally with a more restricted voice and audience. However, there will always be those who thrive on being antagonistic merely for the sake of being antagonistic and provocateurs who thrive merely on creating controversy wherever they may make their voice heard.
Above all, the most important thing that anyone can do as a website owner if they hope to be successful, is to ensure that they know who there target demographic is and understand them to the degree that they can communicate with them on their own level.
After that, it will become much easier to find authors who can create the type of content that is wanted and needed, and convey the messages to the audience in a voice that they will not only understand, but appreciate and want more of to the extent that they are willing to keep returning to the website for more information.