Your first draft will always suck.

Most of us have written a thing or two by the time we’re old enough to start our own business. So I’m not going to give you remedial writing lessons.

In fact, I’d really like it if you’d forget most of what you learned in school!

I don’t want you to worry about dangling participles or sentence fragments. And I want you to forget about being perfect.

What I do want from you is your voice. Your real, live speaking voice.

Yes, you’re going to write this next blog post just the way you speak.

How do you do that?

First – you choose a topic from the list you brainstormed in the last lesson.

Next, you do a brain dump. Write your article. But don’t worry about making it beautiful just yet.

Put it away for at least an hour or more.

When you come back to it, read it outloud.

And as you read, edit the punctuation and content to match the inflections in your voice.

When you speak, you usually use contractions. Incorporate those into your copy.

Notice where you stop to take a breath? Put a period there. (Shorter is always better any way.)

What word do you emphasize? Bold that. Or italicize it. Or — if it’s really crucial to making your point — use all CAPS.

After you’ve done those edits, the next step is to let it sit again. Preferably overnight.

This time, when you come back to it, I want you to look for places you can add an aside comment (something in a set of parentheses) or another way to get across what you mean.

Think about it this way: when you’re having a conversation with someone, how does the banter usually go?

Do you make short explanations on the side? Do you c̶h̶a̶n̶g̶e̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶d̶s̶ strive to be politically correct? Do you tell jokes?

If it’s appropriate for your piece (and it usually is), add a tidbit of humor where it makes sense. You can do that with the s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶t̶h̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ formatting, the parentheses, or even changing the size of your text.

The idea here is that most folks don’t read much anymore.

We talk. We watch TV. We may even listen to talk radio. Our brains have been trained away from formal writing.

Formal writing is (yaaaawn) boring! And if you do it online, you’ll lose your readers faster than a microwave dinner.

So write that blog post or article tonight. And spend the next day or two injecting your voice. Use your words, yes. But also think about how you can do some of that visually with your text formatting.