“My writing doesn’t sound like me.”
This is one of the top comments I hear when entrepreneurs come to me for help with their writing and messaging.
And the #1 reason why?
It’s because their writing is too stiff and formal.
It’s not conversational.
If you’re nodding along – and maybe even cringing a bit – just know it’s not your fault.
Conversational writing has been drilled out of us.
Your teachers told you not to write in a conversational style. You needed to learn how to write college essays, after all!
And in the corporate world, you couldn’t be casual. Not even in emails. In some companies, the more robotic you sounded, the better! (Be honest: how many times in your corporate career did you use the phrase, “Please advise” in an email?)
Now you’re freeeeeeeeeeee!
In fact, it’s the complete opposite! If you write in anything other than a conversational style, people won’t connect.
“But, Cheryl,” you say. “I don’t know how to write in a conversational style!”
That’s why you’re here!
The biggest “write conversationally” tip you normally see is…
“When writing, pretend you’re writing to one person.”
And that’s a great tip!
But even that can feel a little nebulous, so let’s break it down a bit more…
- Step 1. Get clear about who you’re writing to (i.e. your ideal client).
- Step 2. Imagine them sitting across the table from you.
- Step 3. Now, talk to them. (Don’t write to them. Talk.)
Lemme highlight that last bit again: TALK to them.
Because when you’re writing (as opposed to talking), there’s a tendency to get… fancier.
You might write things like, “Know your capabilities.”
Or, “Instead of becoming in-tune with our true selves and soul purpose, we succumb to overwhelm and self-sabotage.”
Or, “My life’s mission is to end suffering for individuals who yearn to forge a new path.”
But would you ever say that to someone in a face-to-face conversation?
Now… what happens if those 3 steps don’t help you?
What if you have a TON of already-written content that you don’t want to chuck out the window… but you know it’s still too formal or complicated?
Well, keep reading, m’friend!
I’m about to give you….
8 Simple Tips to Make Your Writing More Conversational
Heads up: I’m about to give you a bunch of tips that break all sorts of proper grammar rules. And that’s a GOOD thing when it comes to writing conversational copy.
We want copy that’s informal and easy to understand.
And some grammar rules actually make your writing more complicated and convoluted. Or too stuffy and formal.
(That said, there are grammar rules that do help to make your writing clearer – like knowing where to place commas. But I’m telling you to break the ones that add more complication or stuffiness than clarity.)
Okay, now that’s out of the way, let’s dive in!
Tip #1: Use Contractions
Pop quiz – which sounds more conversational? (Hint: read them out loud.)
You will experience joy.
You’ll experience joy.
It is quick and simple.
It’s quick and simple.
I am a leadership coach.
I’m a leadership coach.
Notice how the first one in each of those pairs feels a little… robotic? Stiff and stilted?
And how the second one flows more naturally?
That’s because, when speaking, we use contractions all over the place!
Using contractions is the quickest and easiest way to give your writing a more informal, conversational feel.
Action Step: Go through your existing copy and add contractions!
Scan your latest blog post or email – look for places where you say things like:
and so on…
And change them into:
Quick lesson on “it’s” versus “its”:
For contractions, use “it’s” with an apostrophe because you are combining the two words, “it is.”
Ex. It is a sunny day → It’s a sunny day.
For possessives, use “its” with no apostrophe.
Ex. The dog loves its ball.
(I know, it breaks the normal English rule for possessives, but… well… grammar is ridiculous.)
Tip #2: Avoid long, complicated sentences.
Which feels more conversational?
At Sassy Underpants, our mission is to help you enjoy the process of selecting your underwear each morning because we believe that even the simple act of choosing fun panties can help start your day on the right foot, which we believe is the key to bringing more joy to life, in general.
More fun. Every time you open your underwear drawer. Because why not?
Not convinced? Or think your tone of voice needs longer sentences?
Here’s another reason to break up your sentences: long sentences make it hard on your readers.
Long sentences require the reader to mentally “hold onto” the beginning of the sentence until they get to the end, for it all to make sense. But that takes energy and focus.
Online readers are reading quickly. If they’re not skimming your words already, they’re almost always on the verge of skimming. So if you make them exert effort to understand your writing – by giving them a long sentence – they’ll start skimming. Which means they’ll never get the full impact of what you’re saying.
Action Step: Break up long sentences. Even when it’s grammatically incorrect.
If you feel like you don’t know how to write in short, snappy sentence fragments yet, don’t worry!
An easy place to start is to look at what you’ve already written…
…find your long sentences…
…and start chopping them up!
For example, my first pass at writing this action step said:
Break up long paragraphs, even when it’s grammatically incorrect.
A fraction of a second later, I changed it to:
Break up long sentences. Even when it’s grammatically incorrect.
Still not sure how to break up your sentences? Check out the next tip…
Tip #3: Don’t be afraid to start sentences with And, But, So, and Because
I just told you to chop up your long sentences. Sometimes, the best place to chop it up is at words like and, but, so, and because.
It’s a great way to keep your sentences short and clear.
(Or, I could’ve said: It’s a great way to keep your sentences short. And clear.)
Another reason to start sentences with these words?
They keep your copy flowing.
Ever feel like your writing is too clunky or “just doesn’t flow”?
It might be that you’re not transitioning between thoughts smoothly, or tying your concepts together.
So try adding one of these words in.
(See what I did there? I started a new line, but adding the word “so,” makes it flow from the previous line better.)
Tip #4: Use “you”
In school, we’re taught to avoid using the word “you” in essays. (Remember writing research papers like, “The results show that one must understand the importance of blah blah blah…”?)
But online, you’re talking to someone.
So… talk to them.
(Another reason to use the word “you”: it gets the reader’s attention. Because you’re talking to them. And that’s what we all want.)
Tip #5: Ask questions.
Want to see this tip in action? Scroll back up through this article and look for the question marks.
(And um… did you catch that I just asked you a question there? Oh, and right here, too?)
Pssst… Wanna know another easy way to make your readers feel like you’re really talking to them?
Grab my free mini-course, Copy that Resonates: How to find the exact words that attract your ideal clients + get them excited to work with you.
Tip #6: Make jokes.
No, I don’t mean insert knock-knock jokes throughout your blog posts. (But if that’s your thing, knock knock away!)
I mean add humor by making silly little side comments.
For example, I already made a joke in this tip. Can you spot it?
It was my parenthetical comment: (But if that’s your thing, knock knock away!)
Notice how it’s not a full stand-up comedy routine. It’s just a small comment tacked onto the end of a different sentence.
Tip #7: Include little interjections. (for realz!)
This is another easy way to add more personality to your writing.
Add tiny interjections, like…
(I know, right?)
Caveat: Don’t go overboard with these. If you keep interrupting yourself every other sentence, then it starts to feel fake rather than like a real human being.
Tip #8: Avoid jargon… even the jargon you don’t think is jargon.
What do I mean by that?
I mean, as an expert in your field, you have a different vocabulary for talking about things than your readers or potential buyers do.
Phrases like “limiting beliefs” and “the story you tell yourself” may be common, everyday phrases for you.
But what about your readers? Are these phrases they’re familiar with? Or are these new concepts for them?
Sometimes, you’ll be able to say, “Yep, my people know these words already.”
But sometimes, your writing gets too technical – even if you don’t think of it as “technical.”
Other times, it’s not industry-specific jargon that confuses your readers. Rather, it’s your fun, “I-made-this-up” phrases that throw readers for a loop.
I see coaches do this in their writing all the time. They come up with a phrase they think perfectly articulates a concept… and then they use that phrase all over the place… but they never explain what it means.
For example, let’s say you help people connect with their soul’s purpose. And you teach them how to tap into their deep, inner wisdom to know if the action they’re about to take is aligned with that soul purpose.
It’s kind of like using an internal compass. And what does a compass have? Oh, I know! A needle!
So you decide to call this tapping in process: Aligning with Your Needle
Ooooo… sounds pretty.
But if you start using that phrase all over your website without ever explaining it, you risk confusing (and losing) your readers.
Yes, it seems like it should be self-explanatory. And for you, an expert in this type of work, and someone who knows you mean “needle” as “compass needle,” it probably is.
But this is actually a form of internal jargon. Meaning, people will understand it after you explain it. So you can easily use it with your clients who have learned this process (i.e. people who are “in the know”).
But for a newcomer to your website, it’s not impressive. It’s just confusing. Even if they like the way it sounds, if you don’t explain it, they’ll fill in with their own explanation for what it must mean… which is often totally off track from what you want it to mean.
There you have it! 8 Simple Tips to Make Your Writing More Conversational.
Notice how none of these tips requires you to do a complete overhaul of stuff you’ve already written.
It’s just about going back in to make small, easy tweaks.
And guess what? The more you use these tweaks while editing your drafts, the more you’ll start to do them while writing your first draft. It eventually becomes second nature!
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And happy writing!