The Bible is full of them. The advent of the printing press gave secular writers the chance to play the “Dear Joe, I’m going to write to you personally in order to tell everyone how much I disagree with you” game.
And, of course the internet has given all of us the power to reach multitudes with one carefully aimed piece of prose.
This week, writer and activist Naomi Wolf published an open letter in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.
Young women, give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice had such promise! A famous feminist appearing in a major publication to speak to young women about using their powerful voices? Who cares that I had no idea what “vocal fry” was… I was prepared to read, heed, and share.
It turns out “vocal fry” is a speech pattern adopted by Millennial females. Apparently it’s a Kardashian thing, but since I pride myself on ignoring them completely, I needed to watch the video to figure out what it is.
According to Wolf:
Vocal fry” has joined more traditional young-women voice mannerisms such as run-ons, breathiness and the dreaded question marks in sentences (known by linguists as uptalk) to undermine these women’s authority in newly distinctive ways. Slate notes that older men (ie those in power over young women) find it intensely annoying.
The video is hyper critical. Old guys allegedly hate it. But, to be honest, I’d never even considered creaky voice syndrome before.
Was that because I don’t hang with enough twenty-somethings? Wait, I do! Are my daughters’ babysitters teaching them to croak and I’ve never noticed? Or (worst of all) is it because I do it myself?
Open Letters that Crack Open the Reader's Inner World
At 11 PM when you’re reading one last article before you brush your teeth (even though you know late night screen time is the #1 sleep killer) the last thing you need to do is start reviewing your own YouTube clips to figure out if your vocal patterns would irritate the majority of the members of the Supreme Court.
I considered pulling out the headphones to do just that. But then I found an open response that saved me from all that paranoid analysis.
In An Open Letter To Naomi Wolf: Let Women Speak How They Please Debbie Cameron offers:
What’s really destructive and undermining to women is not their way of speaking but the constant criticism to which their speech is subjected. Telling women their speech habits are bad and wrong is not going to make them more confident speakers: it’s more likely to reduce them to silence. Continually repeating that women’s speech lacks authority just gives people yet another reason to dismiss whatever they say as unworthy of serious attention.
Debbie Cameron, we just met, but I’m sort of in love with you (and I say that without an upspeak question mark that would in any way limit my authority because I am so damn sure about how awesome you are).
I'll be listening for vocal fry in myself and others, but you stopped me from obsessing about it before I even had a chance to start. I've got video production plans in the works so it means the world to me!
What does this have to do with why your writing matters?
Whether or not you’re particularly concerned with your own speech patterns or those of the rising generations (though I hope you are since these women are or will be your clients and customers!), there’s one thing to take away from all this:
These open letters were powerful enough to push my bedtime back by an hour as I reconsidered something as fundamental as what happens when I open my mouth.
You have this power too.
Essentially every blog post you write is an “open letter” to your ideal client - and it could change everything.
Demian Farnworth has a great podcast episode about how effective it is to address every blog post to one person and start with "You've been on my mind lately." (Of course you won’t publish those words, but that’s what’s in your head as you write.) That approach instantly prepares you to write about what really matters to the audience members who matter the most to you.
Write about something that speaks directly to the concerns and, yes, insecurities of your ideal client and you’ll open up doors to their inner world. The question is - what solutions will you offer once you’re inside their inner sanctum?
The Sovereign Standard is a weekly newsletter that invites you to explore writing, entrepreneurship, and everyday creative magic from a fresh angle. Subscribe today!