Writing Conversationally

Thu, Oct 15, 2009


When writing for the web, I keep only one rule in mind; and that rule is to always try to write as I speak—to use a conversational tone.
Most of the people who are reading online are not academics, nor are they the type of people who have the time to read everything that they see on their screens. If you want to build effective and catchy copy that can grab the attention of readers, it needs to be conversational and “light,” but informative enough to keep the reader interested until the very last word.

Why write in a conversational tone?

Extensive and intensive research bears out the truth of the statement that online readers prefer a conversational tone to a formal one. When it comes to web marketing and creating engaging copy, writing as if you’re personally talking to your customer is therefore essential. Writing in a conversational tone makes the writer or the seller appear casual and approachable. A conversational tone will make it easier for you to build rapport with your online customers.

A piece that is written in an informal and conversational tone helps readers to feel at ease and relaxed, making them able to focus more on what they are reading. Very few people revel at the sight of a well-written academic paper–the rest of us usually cringe and move on to look for lighter fare. A conversational piece is easy on the eyes and the brain, and we can be sure that it will accommodate the short attention spans for which the inhabitants of the web are notorious.

Writing as you speak is especially important if you are trying to convince someone to buy a product or avail of a service. When the
reader is at ease and feels like he or she has found a good buddy in you, it makes selling your goods to him or her easier.

Have you ever noticed that you remember more of the details of a book or a movie that you really liked and were emotionally engaged in, compared to the information contained in that History reading assignment which you desperately tried to memorize? This is because you focused your attention only on the book, instead of on the act of memorizing details.

The basics of writing conversationally

There are a few handy things to remember when writing conversational pieces for online publishing. If you are a newbie to writing for the web, start by reading blogs and other websites that are written in a conversational tone. Magazine articles and newspaper columns that use this style of writing are also good general sources of ideas and positive examples of how to write in a conversational style.

Use contractions

When writing for the web, I suggest using contractions. Contractions are a no-no in academic and formal papers, but are a familiar feature of everyday conversation.

Bend some rules of grammar

Formal pieces require a strict and proper use of grammar in order to be acceptable. One can sometimes bend some grammatical rules when writing conversational pieces. No one pays much attention to grammar when talking to a neighbor or a friend. For example, ending sentences with prepositions and starting sentences with words such as “but” and “and” are acceptable in conversational writing, because this is how people usually talk in casual settings.

Talk to your reader directly

A good tip is to write while imagining that you are talking to someone you know. Most writers think of an “ideal” reader as they write, so they can write a piece that can be read by the reader in mind. When it comes to writing conversational pieces, I imagine that I am talking to my friends, my sister, anyone whom I see every day. I use the same tone of voice in the piece I am writing. This approach will help you develop a strong conversational voice and avoid you “accidentally” coming up with a formal piece. No one ever uses a formal style of writing when talking to a best friend or a family member.

Read your piece aloud

Reading your piece out loud is a good way to listen to it and get a feel for the “flow” of words from one paragraph to the next. If you can read your article and hear yourself talking to someone you know in an informal and casual way, then you are good to go. Reading a portion out loud is a good tip, especially if you are not sure if that portion captures the conversational tone of voice that you want.

Edit as necessary

Mozart aside, no piece is perfect on the first try. After reading your piece out loud, edit any sections that sounds stiff or unnatural. Editing is important not only when you’re trying to capture a certain tone in an article, but also generally in terms of establishing a professional image for yourself online. Sharp and well-written articles will help you to appear reliable, competent, and like someone whom anyone can feel safe doing business with.

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9 Responses to “Writing Conversationally”

  1. Marte Cliff Says:

    Great blog post! I see so many websites that completely miss the mark – because people were trying to look “professional.”

    I also see glaring grammar mistakes that I’m sure are there because someone is trying too hard to be correct. One that sets my teeth on edge is “Please call myself or my partner at…”

    Reading out loud is also a good way to see if you’ve misplaced a modifier. Reading can become confusing when the writer says something like “The woman hit the cow in the red car.” That kind of mistake is like erecting a huge stop sign in the middle of your copy – from there on the flow is lost.


  2. Tom - StandOutBlogger.com Says:

    I am a massive fan of conversational writing in blogs! I find as a blog reader I prefer blogs that talk to me – not at me.


  3. EarningStep Says:

    again , this is great article for me , just in time when i need something to improve my blogging skill . thanks for sharing this my friend and sorry for out of topic , but your blog is great with nice clean color.
    .-= EarningStep´s last blog ..Earningstep dot com monthly report – October Earning report =-.


  4. Natino Says:

    I need to work on my writing. Thanks for sharing this. Such a great help!


  5. Jackson Says:

    Writing on a conversational style will surely get the interest of your target audience. I totally dig this.


  6. Louise Says:

    Absolutely agree! This is a great post. Website copy should always engage the reader and sound like friends having a conversation over lunch – comfortable and trustworthy.

    Why would anyone want to read an online corporate brochure?
    .-= Louise´s last blog ..Making a list and checking it twice =-.


  7. Joe Gschweng Says:

    Just starting to look into how to get my customers into the room with me from the keyboard.
    This will get me going in the right direction.


  8. Craig Says:

    Joe is right. Your post is helpful and get me into right directions too. our points are all noted.


  9. Maria Says:

    I just learned from this post. I need to polish my conversational writing skill more. Thank you for sharing this. It’s one big help.


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