You’ve read blog posts that tell you to write “conversationally,” right?
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 that it’s a bit misleading.
Writing “conversationally” is quite far from “writing as we speak”.
I know because many clients send me recordings or transcripts of them talking about their ideas.
It takes quite a bit of wrangling to turn the raw materials into written content that is clear, concise and to the point.
The way most of us speak is often not rigorous enough to achieve the desired effect of “writing conversationally”.
So to begin with, let’s find out WHY we should write “conversationally”.
It’s not meant to make writing any less scary for you.
The point is to make sure your content is easy to read and understand – if people don’t read your posts or get the point, your content is meaningless.
Remember, most people aren’t interested in parsing through a wall of text or deciphering 5 lines of a continuous run-on sentence.
Essentially, conversational writing means communicating in clear English to get your point across.
Now let’s get the definition out of the way. Let’s see why “writing speaking” is not necessarily the same as “writing conversationally:
Reality #1: We rarely speak concisely
Many of us – especially when it comes to what we do – speak long, run-on sentences without even realizing it.
The result is a big wall of text that drives people away.
Fix it: write short, simple sentences and keep each paragraph to no more than 2-3 sentences.
When I write, I spend a lot of time deleting stuff and breaking long sentences into 2 or even 3 parts.
It takes skill and practice to say things in a simple and modest way, but still be able to convey a complex idea.
Reality #2: We are tempted to use big words
We tend to use big words, jargon or “short hand” when we speak.
On paper, they just look like a big jumble of alphabets. Readers’ eyes glaze over and you lose their welcome.
Fix it: A few of these words are unavoidable, but most of the time we can communicate the idea just as well using plain English.
When we need to explain something in plain English, we need to be clear about what we really want to say.
You can’t hide behind the smoke and mirrors of big words. Use this as an opportunity to gain new clarity from your POV.
You need discipline to be intentional about your word choices.
Get over yourself…using big words to puff your chest is just speaking your fears.
Reality #3: We tend to use the same word for the same thing
Most of us tend to use the same word to talk about the same thing. It’s usually fine in speech, but becomes repetitive and redundant in written form.
Fix it: need to expand your vocabulary! When you see the same word used multiple times in a paragraph, rack your brain for variations. (Or see the vocabulary function in Word… )
Reality #4: We don’t talk in bullet points
Not naturally anyway.
Clear and to-the-point articles usually have different concepts organized into sections or bullet points and tied together with a thesis.
It’s rare to have all our ideas neatly organized in our heads before we speak (without a script).
If you just dump everything in your head onto the screen, you’ll probably end up with a pretty confusing article.
Fix it: identify your thesis, formulate your ideas, structure your narrative, and then organize your thoughts according to the framework.
Using subheadings is not only good for search engine optimization. It also helps structure your ideas.
It’s a great exercise that not only makes your writing 100x better, but also helps clarify your thoughts and articulate “what you do and how you do it.”
Reality #5: We assume that the USP or POV is clear
When editing copy for my clients, I often ask them “what’s the point” or “why should readers care?”
Often they would say something like “isn’t it all there?”
The truth is, if I read a piece because you paid me for it, 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 – how you add value) and POV (point of view) and make sure your content “loops back” to emphasize these points.