You've got to speak with authority!

This is a guest post by Chris Hinton

A friend sent me this video the other day. I love typography, so he knew I'd like it, but what the video is saying really got me thinking. Have a look at it and I'll tell you what I thought afterwards. Go on, I'll wait...

Blogging is a funny old game. Anyone with an Internet connection can start a blog on any subject, whether they have real knowledge of it or not. Of course, it will soon become obvious if you don't know your subject well, as people start to notice wooly posts that never really go into any depth.

There are a load of bloggers, though, who do know their subject but are afraid of looking like they know too much. How could they hope to compete with the big boys or, horror of horrors, what if an Internet troll notices an error and starts leaving hostile comments? Surely it's best to make it clear you're not an expert and hope that people will leave you alone.

The problem is people aren't searching the Net for amateurs; they're searching the net for answers. You might not know the answer to every problem and question, but I'm sure you know the answer to some of them, so why not let your readers know that? I don't mean arrogantly saying, "I know what I'm talking about!", but letting them see by the quality of your writing and the conviction with which you write that you actually have some authority in the area you're talking about. If, on the other hand, you write with an apologetic, unsure tone, nobody is going to believe you know your stuff even if you do.

Pick an A-list blogger and see how they write (I took Darren Rowse as an example). He writes as if he knows his subject well, and I have no doubt that he does. Sure he'll get things wrong sometimes, he's only human after all, but that doesn't stop him writing with a conviction that what he's saying is actually right. Whoever your A-list comparison is with, their knowledge of their field is most likely coupled with authoritative language that instills confidence in their readers - you just KNOW they know what they're talking about.

So what kinds of things can help you write with more authority?

- Don't be afraid to discuss specifics. Most people get very vague when they're not sure what they're talking about, or when they're suffering from low self-confidence. If you want to show what you know don't be afraid to go into detail in your posts.

- Invite discussion. If you're open to discussion it allows people to put questions to you, giving you another opportunity to build your authority. It also shows that you're confident in what you've said.

- Admit it when you're wrong. You won't get it right all the time, and there's no point in pretending that you will. If you get something wrong, admit it. That can do wonders for people's trust in you as they know you're genuine and honest enough to admit your mistakes.

I love that last line from the video, "Contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply question authority; you got to speak with it too". If you want people to trust you, you've got to show them that you trust yourself.

What would you add to the ways you can write with authority? Do you agree with the video's message, or not? I'd love to know what your thoughts are.

You can find more of Chris’ work at Geek Speak and do follow him on Twitter @cdhinton. Chris would like to thank Adam at Reality of Dreams for sending him the video.

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