Writing Conversationally: How to Do it Right and Avoid Mistakes
Are you looking to build engagement and increase content readership on your business’s website, social media pages, and other marketing channels? To achieve better results, mastering the art of writing conversationally is essential.
How so? Well, put simply, natural (but grammatically impeccable) speech is a great way to humanize whatever you write. Whether it’s an event invitation to your customers or your website’s blog posts, your words shouldn’t sound like a robot or an algorithm produced them. That kind of writing is incredibly boring to read.
To help you avoid “robotic” writing, today’s post covers the right things content marketers need to do to hone a conversational voice. While it seems like writing conversationally would be easy—most of us are pretty good at making conversation, after all—there are actually quite a few pitfalls to the practice. We’ll review some of those, too. Read on.
How Does Writing Conversationally Differ From Formal Writing?
First, it’s essential to understand that “formal writing” doesn’t necessarily have to sound robotic. There’s also nothing inherently wrong with writing in a more formal style. It’s just not usually appropriate for casual communication or most marketing applications, as it rarely comes off as friendly.
Mechanically, writing conversationally means leaning heavily on contractions and informal expressions, which would be considered inappropriate in formal writing.
Some people may tell you that using a conversational style is akin to “writing like you talk.” But, that’s oversimplifying. Written communication is different from verbal speech in a variety of ways, and you need to follow its stylistic conventions to prevent confusion—or even outright disgust—in your target audience.
Another way to describe writing conversationally is “to write with a casual tone.” But what exactly does that mean?
Well, think about how you would talk with a new friend. Your language in those scenarios will carry a much different tone from how you would sound while writing a term paper for a class or an HR handbook, for example. You want to make a good impression on your reader without seeming stiff or dull.
The following “to-dos” and accompanying “don’ts” will get you on the right track.
Do Establish a Friendly, Confident Tone
One caveat: for certain businesses, a formal tone may be more appropriate in most instances. You need to understand your industry, your target audiences on different marketing platforms and outlets, and whether humor of any kind is ever appropriate.
Once you fully understand your business’s place in the world, it’s time to discover its casual voice. Take a look at how other businesses in your industry engage on social media, and you may get a good sense of the tone you should embrace, too. Just remember—be authentic!
Don’t Use Slang, Too Much Jargon, or Inappropriate Phrases
As we mentioned, writing conversationally is not unlike communicating with a friend. However, you may use slang, industry jargon, or inappropriate language (aka swear words) when speaking to friends. Do not do this in your marketing writing, even on social media.
Heavy jargon usage especially is an excellent way to bore and alienate your target audience (unless they’re 100% in the same industry as you are and will understand the terminology). And, using any questionable language can instantly hurt your credibility and authority.
Some brands have gotten away with breaking this rule, of course—we’re thinking of certain fast-food restaurants on Twitter and Facebook. However, these brands took a significant risk, and have sometimes had to apologize for going too far. Trust us, it’s not worth putting your small- to medium-sized business brand in this position.
Don’t Lose Perspective
Along with not getting carried away in using inappropriate language, you should never lose sight of the fact that you’re still writing as a professional for a business purpose. Unless it’s key to your brand values, don’t get political on social media or in your marketing materials.
And, remember—the customer is always right. Consider your ideal customer or client’s point of view and craft your content to meet them where they are.
Do Learn How to Connect with Your Audience
This is a point that bears repeating from above—as a content marketer or other marketing professional, you want to truly know who your target audience is and find ways that you can connect with them through your business. Talk to them, instead of about them.
The best marketing is about meeting your customers and audience members where they are, and that means forging a personal connection through your writing. However, this can be a fine line to walk.
Don’t Make It Too Personal—You’re Still Speaking Professionally
Have you ever seen a business’s social media or blog posts written from a singular first-person perspective, but that had no attribution to a single person? It sounds like the company itself has somehow come alive and is addressing you directly!
Sentences start with words like, “I know…” or “I think…” and yet, there isn’t a byline anywhere telling you who the “I” is. While conversational, this level of casualness really isn’t acceptable. It’s both confusing and unprofessional.
Beware the trap of the first-person singular pronouns: “I,” “my,” “me,” and “mine.” Unless your business really is just you and no one else, you should stick to the first-person plural pronouns like “we,” “our,” and “us” instead. (And, even if it is just you, consider presenting yourself as plural in writing so the world thinks you have a whole team working with you!)
Don’t Go Overboard With Jokes
As we touched on above, as well as in our previous blog post on how to create more engaging engagement marketing, being clever or funny in your marketing can be a great tactic. However, humor can even more easily fall flat, especially if it is not part of your typical brand identity.
Take it easy with jokes, puns, and irony in your marketing materials unless your audiences already expect this from you.
Do Shorten Your Sentences and Simplify
While mixing longer and shorter sentences yields the most “interesting” writing, you should attempt to keep sentences on the short and punchy side. Be wary of the following related writing traps, too.
Don’t Use Passive Voice
Indeed, some industries rely heavily on the passive voice in their written work. Law, medicine, and other highly technical fields that need to keep things on the impersonal side use this grammatical voice construction without apology. However, in marketing writing, the active voice should be your friend.
If you’re a little shaky on the details of what constitutes passive voice versus active voice, that’s okay. Writing tools like Grammarly and even those included with Microsoft Word will help you tighten up passive sentence construction.
Don’t Abandon All Proper Grammar
While it should be evident by now, we’ll mention one more time that writing conversationally is not an excuse to write without paying mind to grammar rules. Above all, your marketing materials need to express clear ideas, and proper grammar promotes clarity.
Do Ask Questions to Engage Your Reader
Breaking up the flow of your writing with a direct question to your reader is a tactic that can increase engagement, or pull a wandering mind back into your text. If you can connect this question to a problem you’re trying to help your audience solve through your business, even better. Follow your question with a direct call to action (CTA) for the best results.
For instance, you might ask, “are you looking for marketing tools and templates that the experts themselves use?” Then, direct your reader to a helpful resource download. (Our Weekly Tracker sales document is an example, or perhaps a useful video or explanatory white paper that helps show your reader how you’re there for them.)
Looking for Ways to Brighten Up Your Marketing Materials?
Call The H&H Group today.
See what we did there? We asked you a friendly question to tie this post together and lead into a clear CTA!
In the end, creating great marketing materials requires a collaborative approach and a genuine team effort. Here at The H&H Group, our experts are ready to help you level up your print marketing and so much more. Let us know how we can help your business.