The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Conversationally

Written by | Content Marketing

Unless your company is staffed by robots making robot products for other robots, it’s essential to master the conversational tone in your writing. Natural, but still grammatically impeccable speech is a great way to humanize whatever you write whether it’s to your customers, your shareholders, or your employees. It can also help you build engagement and increase content readership.

In theory, the conversational tone should be easy for integrated marketers, since most of us are pretty good at making conversation. However, it’s not quite as simple as, “Write like you talk.” Here are the dos and don’ts of making the conversational voice work for you.

Do Use Contractions
If you’re old-school, you probably came up in the business world believing that contractions were evil. Contractions simply sound more natural and fluid – and contractions also let you use fewer letters and maximize that ever-important white space. Consider the following:

  1. Do not wait—there is limited time on this offer!

Versus

  1. Don’t wait—there’s limited time to act!

Real people just don’t speak like #1. If you want a stronger CTA, #2 would be the way to go.

Don’t Write Sentences That Go on for Lines or Paragraphs That Go on for Pages
Unlike a face-to-face conversation where you have a captive audience, your communications are probably competing—with other emails, ads, banner ads, websites, etc. Writing prosaically doesn’t mean being a windbag: make your points quickly and clearly.

Do Use Personal Pronouns and First Person
Your high-school English or journalism teacher probably drilled it into your head that corporations are not people, and therefore, it’s an “it”, not an “us” or “we.” Forget this immediately. There’s nothing that sounds stranger and even more confusing than writing about the company as if it’s some weird monolith that is autonomously putting out press releases. So instead of writing something like this:

“SmithCo and its employees are committed to customer service.”

Try:

“At SmithCo, all of us are committed to customer service.”

If you absolutely must stick with writing in the third person, at least be consistent about it.

Keep Jargon to a Minimum
Jargon is a good way to bore and alienate your audience. And Sarah Skerik, PR Newswire’s Vice President of Social Media, warns integrated marketers that jargon instantly tanks your credibility and, if you’re writing web content, adds nothing to your SEO.

Do Read It Aloud Once You’ve Written It
Or even better, read it to someone else just as a gut check. It should sound like the beginning of a personal conversation—one that has ample opportunity for the audience to engage and answer back!

Last modified: January 11, 2018

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