What do we mean by authentic voice? Communication which touches people because it’s not just bland corporate words. Authentic voice brings your business communication and language alive because it’s real, it is words with emotions.
If English is not your first language, the temptation is to ensure that all your communications are grammatically correct. It is easy to forget about personality and voice.
Should you place more importance on the correctness of your business English? Is it better to communicate effectively and memorably. Is it better to be correct? In an ideal world you will be able to do both, however that’s not always possible.
Whenever we write or speak our aim is to communicate. To explain an idea, to make a request, to give or to receive information. Our aim is to do so effectively, with clarity. This should always be the primary objective of any communication we make.
So the grammar you’ve used isn’t absolutely correct. Perhaps you’ve used a word which is slightly wrong. Does it really matter? The good news is that as a non-native speaker of English you get some leeway. You’re not necessarily expected to be perfect.
Of course context is important. A casual eMail to a colleague is very different to a formal email to your boss which is different to chasing to someone at a trade show. However the aim is still the same, you want to be understood and clear. Now, I’m not saying forget the rules, don’t worry about it! I am saying don’t beat yourself up about it. Communicate clearly first, worry about the correctness second.
Authentic Voice & Personality
Where does personality sit in the argument. Once again it is about context. I’m of the opinion that personality is important whether you’re reaching out to potential customers, communicating with suppliers or your colleagues. There are certain considerations though.
- Does your company have a recognisable voice? If so then you must be careful when writing marketing or promotional materials. Your marketing department will want to retain a consistent voice.
- Who are you communicating to and who else is going to see it? You need to be comfortable that you’re happy for the communication to be read in contact by anyone.
- Appropriateness. What’s appropriate for a colleague is not appropriate for a customer or a boss.
Generally we want to know that the people we deal with have a personality. We don’t want to spend our time dealing with robots.
I’m going to say chill out a bit. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not getting every aspect of your English absolutely correct. The most important thing is to make yourself understood, confidently.
Better English comes with practise and you won’t get better if you’re frightened to express yourself because you may make a mistake. My two youngest children have a year between them. The older of them was very cautious about speaking and wanted everything to be perfect before he tried anything new. The younger didn’t care. He just wanted to communicate. He’d make mistakes but he’d try anyway. His language skills developed far more quickly than his brother’s.
Don’t be afraid to allow your personality to shine through. People like to deal with people, not robots.