Want to write in a conversational tone? Good news: it’s easy. If you can talk, you can write.
I’m a big fan of conversational content. It’s easy, readable and relatable.
But is it professional?
No more stuffy sentences full of big words. They are OUT. You think it’s professional, but it’s pretentious and unreadable.
No offence to academics, doctors and lawyers. But you lot are the worst at it. Big chunks of text, long sentences and fancy words. It gives me a headache. (Perhaps it’s because I’m just an Arts graduate.)
Complex writing makes your readers feel dumb
You know the kind of writing, where you have to read a sentence twice to understand what the hell it means? Your readers won’t work hard to understand your message. They just scroll away to more helpful content, probably on your competitor’s blog.
Clarity is kindness
The good thing about conversational tone is brevity. It gets to the pig’s arse, as my dad says. (It means get to the point.)
Grammar? No thanks
Conversational tone doesn’t follow strict grammar rules. Thankfully, because you aint got time to worry about split infinitives and prepositions.
But, you DO still need to follow basic grammar. As much as I hate them, you gotta get your apostrophes in the right place. And know the difference between your and you’re.
Conversational tone is inclusive
Your audience may have English as a second language, visibility challenges or dyslexia. Or they aren’t huge fans of reading. Your conversational tone is more inclusive for everyone.
So how do you write in a conversational tone?
It’s how we talk. Of these two bullets below, which is more conversational?
- I can’t believe what she’s done
- I can not believe what she has done
Questions are casual and engaging. Questions speak directly to you, the reader. (I love your hair, by the way.) It feels like a private chat between you and the author.
You can make questions out of almost any sentence.
- The result was exceptional
- And the result? It was exceptional
Have you noticed how many questions I’ve included in this blog post?
Simple and clear, short sentences
This is a sentence from a lawyer’s website: (about an increase to minimum wages)
Where an employer pays its employees an annualised salary in excess of (and in satisfaction of) all award entitlements, it will not (depending on the precise terms of the relevant employment contract) be necessary to increase the employees’ salaries where the amounts paid are already above the required minimum rates.
I read that sentence a few times to understand it. If I were tasked with rewriting it, I’d say this:
If you already pay your staff more than the award, you don’t have to increase salaries to meet the new minimum rates.
My rewritten sentence might make a lawyer uncomfortable. Sure, it’s more general in tone and lawyers love to be specific. But it’s far more accessible.
Writing in the second person
You may have noticed another change I made when I rewrote that lawyer sentence. I wrote it in the second person, not the third.
- Second person, is you and yours, we and ours.
- Third person is the company, its customers, its stakeholders
- Second person: we give you great service
- Third person: we give our customers great service
See how the third person removes the reader in a way? It’s like the customers are a separate group of people who are not in the room. They’re being put at a distance.
Here’s another example:
When content is written in the third person, it makes it harder for readers to relate to the organisation and build trust.
When you write in third person, your readers find it harder to relate to you and trust you.
I hope you find the second sentence more readable.
I’ve used several here in this blog post. (‘Get to the pig’s arse’ being a personal favourite.) If you speak in the language that your audience uses, you naturally make a connection.
Read out loud
The best way to test your conversational tone? Read your writing aloud. Every stumble is a clue for a clunky phrase that needs rewriting.
Another way to write in a conversational tone is to speak your first draft. Use your phone voice memo to record your message. You can have it transcribed into your content without hitting a finger to the keyboard.
Get rid of the we
Readers want their problem solved. So write to them, not about them.
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Find every ‘we’ in your writing and replace it with a ‘you’.
When we talk, we use phrases and interjections. You can add them to your writing too. It creates an immediate friendly feel.
You know what I mean.
These little interjections add a bucketload of personality. They’re especially good as single sentences or paragraphs, to build tension or interest.
My oh my, I love the brackets. I use them all the time (too much, probably).
People are drawn to the brackets. It’s a replica of the little aside that you’d use when writing in a conversational tone. Like a wink between friends.
Give them a try.
Start your sentences with And and But
Your English teacher will be horrified. But mean old Mrs Odgers will get over it. The number one rule of conversational tone is writing how we talk. So, And? Welcome to the start of sentences.
Other transition words are good for readability too. Words such as:
- plus (another fave of mine)
- of course
To summarise: how to write in a conversational tone
Writing in a conversational tone is easy: just write how you talk. Use contractions, short sentences and casual phrases, bruh. Speak to your customer, not about yourself (replace the word ‘we’ with ‘you’). Use brackets and sentences (they’re friendly). Your readers will love it.