Last week we talked about the art and the science of writing for the web, including how to optimize your copy correctly for SEO and skimmability. This week, we’re exploring the idea of writing like you talk – which many experts suggest is one of the most effective means of reaching your audience.
So how do you write you like you talk? In three simple steps.
Step 1: Think About Rhythm
Think about the rhythm of everyday conversation. We don’t talk as though we’re in a vacuum – we pause, we take breath, we allow our words to sink in, we place emphasis on particular ideas, and we allow the person we’re talking with to chime in.
Traditional and formal writing often follows a more structured flow, which bears little resemblance to the way people actually speak to each other. Writing for the web is most engaging when it’s conversational in nature – so imagine that you’re chatting with a friend when you’re writing. Think about the natural pauses and breaks in the rhythm of how you normally speak, and let that rhythm guide the flow of your content.
Step 2: Employ a Conversational Style
The aim when writing for an online audience is to engage them in conversation – even if their reply comes in the form of a comment at the end of your post, or via social media, rather than a back and forth discussion. One of the keys to writing like you talk is being conversational, or chatty. Focus on your voice being friendly, casual and accessible.
Read back what you’ve written to get a feel for whether it sounds right when spoken aloud. If it sounds disjointed or unnatural when you read it back to yourself, it’s going to sound the same way in the heads of your readers when they’re consuming your content. Ask yourself, “If I was explaining this idea or process to a friend or colleague or client, would these be the words that I’d use?” If they’re not, simplify. Revise. Talk aloud to an imaginary audience, and then write those words down.
Step 3: Keep it Simple
When you’re talking about a great new product with a customer, do you throw in all the jargon and terminology and marketing speak? Or do you cut the unnecessary BS and big words, and get right to the heart of the solution?
When we talk to one another, we generally discard any superfluous words or information in favor of the most important bits. We like to get right to the meaty stuff – opting to keep it simple unless further explanation is required. When it comes to writing how you talk, this focus on keeping it simple is essential. Your readers are skimming your content for the bits they find most useful, so it’s crucial to cut to the chase and give them what they’re looking for as fast as possible. While still remaining eloquent, engaging and conversational, of course.
Think about it this way. If you were telling a friend about a great new restaurant, would you say something along the lines of;
The ambience was disappointing, but the culinary expertise of the chef exceeded expectations…
Or would you simply say something like;
The décor was a bit drab, but I was blown away by the meal.
Even some of the greatest writers in history have noted that the most important part of writing is rewriting. Don’t be afraid to get all of your ideas down in their raw, unedited, typo-riddled form, and then go back to edit, simply, and ensure you’re using a natural voice before you hit publish.
You don’t need to include all the “um”s and “yeah”s you might usually let slip into your spoken conversations, but writing like you talk can be a great way to engage your audience, showcase your personality, build trust and credibility, and get readers responding to keep the discussion going.