The Myth Vs. Reality Of “Writing Conversationally”
Most blog posts that teach people how to write blog posts tell you to write “conversationally.”
It probably makes the whole writing thing sound less intimidating, which isn’t a bad thing to encourage people to get started.
The problem is, it’s somewhat misleading.
Writing “conversationally” is quite far from “write like we speak.”
I know, because many clients send me recordings or transcripts of them talking out their ideas.
It takes quite a bit of wrangling to turn the raw materials into written content that’s clear, concise, and to-the-point.
The way most of us speak is often not tight enough to achieve the desired effect of “writing conversationally.”
So to start, let’s determine WHY we should write “conversationally.”
It isn’t to make writing less scary for you.
It’s to make sure your content is easy to read and understand — if people aren’t reading your posts or grasping the point, your content isn’t doing anything meaningful.
Keep in mind most people have no interest in parsing through a wall of text or deciphering a run-on sentence that goes on for 5 lines.
In essence, writing conversationally is about communicating in plain English so you get the point through.
Now we get the definition out of the way, let’s look at why “writing the way you speak” isn’t necessarily the same as “writing conversationally:”
Reality #1: We Rarely Speak Concisely
Many of us — especially when it comes to talking about what we do — tend to speak in long, run-on sentences without even realizing it.
The result is a big wall of text that drives people away.
Fix it: write in short simple sentences and keep each paragraph to no more than 2–3 sentences.
When I write, a lot of time is spent on deleting stuff and chopping up long sentences into 2 or even 3 parts.
It takes skills and practice to say things in a simple unassuming way yet being able to communicate a complex idea.
Reality #2: We’re Tempted To Use Big Words
We tend to use big words, jargon or “short hands” when we speak.
On paper, they just look like a big jumble of alphabets. Your readers’ eyes will glaze over and you lose them at hello.
Fix it: a few of these words are inevitable but most of the time, we can communicate an idea just as fine using plain English.
When we have to explain something in plain English, we have to get clear on what we really want to say.
There’s no hiding behind the smoke and mirror of big words. Take this as an opportunity to gain another layer of clarity about your POV.
You need the discipline to be intentional about your word choices.
Get over yourself… using big words to puff up your chest is just your fears talking.
Reality #3: We Tend To Use the Same Word For the Same Thing
Most of us have the habit of using the same word to talk about the same thing. That’s usually fine in speech but it becomes repetitive and redundant in written form.
Fix it: gotta expand your vocabulary! When you see the same word used multiple times in one paragraph, wrack your brain to find variations. (Or, consult the thesaurus function in Word…)
Reality #4: We Don’t Talk In Bullet Points
Not naturally, anyway.
Articles that are clear and get the point through tend to have different concepts organized in sections or bullet points and tied together with a thesis.
It’s rare that we have all our ideas organized neatly in our heads before we speak (without a script.)
If you just pour all the stuff that’s swirling in your head onto the screen, you’d probably publish quite a confusing article.
Fix it: identify your thesis, lay out your ideas, structure your narrative, and then organize your thoughts according to the framework.
Using sub-headers aren’t just good for SEO. It also helps structure your ideas.
It’s a great exercise to not only make your writing 100x better but also help clarify your thoughts and articulate the “what you do and how you do it.”
Reality #5: We Assume Our USP or POV Is Clear
When I edit copy for my clients, I often ask them, “so what’s the point” or “why should your readers care?”
Often times they’d say something like, “isn’t it all there?”
Truth is, if I took the time to read the piece because you paid me to do so and it’s still not clear to me, do you think your readers will take the time to figure it out for you?
Fix it: get really clear on your USP (unique selling proposition — aka, how you add value) and your POV (point of view,) then make sure your content “circles back” to emphasize these points.
Ling Wong :: Intuitive Brainiac | Creativity Mentor | Copywriting Alchemist. Author of Copywriting Alchemy: Secrets to Turning a Powerful Personal Brand Into Content that Sells.
Through her unique blend of marketing coaching, Content Experience Design and copywriting process, she helps the maverick-preneurs uncover, articulate & transform their WHY into content that connects, resonates and converts — by way of an intuitive yet rigorous iterative process born out of her Harvard Design School training and 15 years experience in the online marketing industry.
Ling is Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, and Email Marketing certified. Through her writing engagements with various SaaS and marketing companies with the goals of driving organic traffic, building readership and increasing conversion, she’s well-versed in topics including online marketing, content marketing, eCommerce, conversion, UX, social media marketing, and more.
She helps coaches, consultants, service professionals, solopreneurs and small businesses apply these best practices to their specific business models and circumstances.
Ling is an avid cyclist with OCD (obsessive climbing disorder,) runner and chocoholic.
Join her upcoming Content Marketing in Plain English webinar series here.
Originally published at business-soulwork.com on August 15, 2017.