5 Kick-a$$ Tips to Make Your Writing More Conversational & Engaging
Adopting a conversational voice (or tone) in your writing is characterized by the way you address your audience – more informally – to make your words stand out and spark some kind of meaningful connection with them.
You write the same way you would talk to your reader if you were face to face, and it should come off as authentic and trustworthy.
Why use conversational writing?
According to Microsoft Advertising Research, 85% of consumers only consider brands they trust. And 72% only support brands that are authentic in their advertising. Your writing style will have a direct effect on whether your readers feel a positive connection to your product or service. So how do you build this kind of connection through conversational writing?
Knowing your target audience is key (buyer personas will come in handy here), as your conversational voice should vary based on a range of demographics and other factors, and you want to ensure that you're "speaking the right language" to the right people.
So, content marketing peeps: Here's the 4-1-1 on simple writing tactics that'll get your prospects to practically hang...on...every...word...
#1. Use contractions.
As someone who studied English literature in college, I like to mix things up by throwing in an occasional Shakespearean contraction like "t'was" or "t'were" among friends. But neither Shakespeare nor I have a monopoly on contractions – virtually everyone uses them in conversation, which is exactly why you should use them. They add a more personal, natural tone to your writing.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that you incorporate Old English contractions into your writing, but do try using "you're" instead of "you are" or "they're" instead of "they are." Your readers will recognize these as part of typical speech patterns and feel at ease with your informal style as if you're speaking their language.
Word of caution: we can't go using contractions all willy-nilly-like. For instance, I'd recommend steering clear of "ain't" – unless you're being cute or you happen to be quoting songs like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" or "Ain't No Mountain High," etc. (After all, classic R&B's grammar ain't nobody's business!) You should also usually stay away from contractions with "have," such as "could've" or "would've."
Just be sure you're asking yourself, "To contract or not to contract?" (That is the question.)
#2. Skip the jargon.
Every industry seems to have its own "insider" vocabulary. On top of that, most companies have their own shorthand and acronyms. All this technical stuff can weigh down your writing or make it harder to understand. What's okay to use?
It might be helpful to consider these definitions from Merriam-Webster:
- Terminology: The special words or phrases that are used in a particular field
- Jargon: The technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group
Using the right terminology will help people in the field understand exactly what you're talking about, regardless of where that person works. It won't exclude anyone in the industry, even if they work on the other side of the world. You'll probably often find that the right terminology figures prominently in your list of targeted keywords.
On the contrary, jargon is generally considered to be exclusive or "inside talk." It obscures your meaning rather than making it clearer and more accessible. Moreover, some jargon has become meaningless because it's consultant-speak. Even if you're not going for a conversational tone, banish these words and phrases from your writing:
- Actionable ("practical" or "useful")
- Ideate ("think")
- Dialogue ("talk")
- Synergy ("collaboration" or "cooperation")
Instead, choose words like the ones in parentheses above, which are simpler and easy for anyone to understand. And while we're at it, replace "utilize" with "use." Why utilize three syllables when you can simply use one?
#3. Keep. It. Short.
Speaking of opting for shorter things, when was the last time you spoke in 100-word sentences on purpose? Or strung many long sentences together? We don't naturally speak like that, but we tend to write like that. Those long sentences might seem impressive, but they can be tough on your readers. I love semi-colons as much as the next English buff, but (alas) they're not the best choice for an online audience.
According to our friends at Yoast, paragraphs definitely shouldn't be longer than about 200 words, and the ideal paragraph length is generally 50-75 words. Why so short? People skim when they read online. Aim for three- or four-sentence paragraphs, and keep your sentences relatively short. Save those compound-complex sentences for your master's thesis.
#4. Embrace first- and second-person pronouns.
In the world of academic writing, "you" is a curse. But the second-person has a distinct, welcome place in online writing because it directly acknowledges your reader, and our primary task is to connect with readers. Don't be afraid to use "you" when it will help you recognize your reader's challenges or victories. It's also the right choice if you're giving concrete, direct advice to your readers.
Also, note that you can use the second person without using "you." Direct commands are still second-person. For example, in the paragraph above, the "Don't be afraid..." sentence is in the second person. This is a very effective method for building authority while maintaining a conversational tone.
Similarly, the first person gets an unnecessarily bad rap. While there's a big difference between your personal journal and the online content you write for your organization, there's still a place for "I" and "me" when, again, it will help you connect with your reader. For example, I've used first-person in this article to share my own personal appreciation for Shakespeare and classic R&B.
Hmm... next article idea: "If Popular R&B Songs Were Written By Shakespeare"
Don't [you] worry; I'm only kidding. (See what I did there with pronouns?)
#5. Get emotional.
Even in the world of B2B content marketing, there are real human beings on the other end who are consuming your content. Human emotion is a factor in everything we do, and no matter your particular target audience, you'll want to consider this when you're creating just about any type of content.
Using a conversational – even passionate! – voice in your writing will naturally draw your reader in with its appeal and make you seem approachable. This increases the chance that your audience will connect with your message, as they'll feel like you're speaking directly to them on a personal level. It's an opportunity to build relatability and trust quickly.
Once you've sparked emotion, it's more likely they'll continue reading. And that means your message is getting through, they're actively "hearing" your value proposition, and you're one step closer to getting them to take the action you desire.
Effective content creators use words that their audience actually uses to search online, because it serves to boost their SEO.
Ready to give it a go?
Whether B2B, B2C (or R&B, wink wink), try out your new easy-breezy writing style to start engaging with your readers and ensuring your message gets through. For effective content marketing, use these methods to find your conversational voice – and listen to it! Read what you've written out loud to see if it flows naturally. Once you've got it down, you'll see higher engagement with your content and, ultimately, more conversions.
By the way, did you notice that "conversion" is in the word "CONVERSatIONal?"