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How To be more conversational when you write

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  • Post last modified:January 7, 2023

No one likes “borrrring,” especially online readers. Whether you keep your readers or lose them depends significantly on how you write. The question is, are you engaging your audience, or are you writing to show off knowledge? 

Your readers would very unlikely appreciate reading another thesis-like composition on the Internet that reminds them of their college days. What they want is to be able to understand a subject on the first read and have fun doing it. And there’s only one way to do this—conversational writing.

Is conversational writing the same as “writing the way you talk”?

Well, that’s the standard explanation. However, that is only partially accurate. The written word is not the same as the spoken. Writing is more coherent than speech because of the planning that goes into it. You don’t expect it to have slurs or other peculiarities that may creep in with spontaneous speaking.

Conversational writing means writing as you talk when your writing mimics how you would speak to a human sitting right in front of you in an informal setting. It is more about the two-way flow of a conversation than how the words come out. Conversational writing allows readers to react with a nod, a smile, an interjection, a remark, or even a laugh ( even though they do so solo). 

Your writing should carry warmth with an easy, friendly, informal writing style. Like you would have a conversation with a jolly good friend over coffee. 

While all speaking idiosyncrasies will be impossible to translate to writing, you can still do a lot to make your write-ups engaging so that your readers can feel like you’re chatting right next to them in real-time. Improve your readers’ experience with the following tips

Everyday words are loved

Familiarity is everyone’s friend. People are usually drawn to what they know. Everyday conversations are not filled with words like pulchritudinous and tergiversation. Because simple words naturally come easily to us when we talk every day. 

When writing, big and unfamiliar words are useless if there’s a perfect, simple equivalent that conveys the message clearly. Your readers shouldn’t wander off thinking, “What was that word?” Imagine having several of them; how likely are you to keep your readers focused on what you are telling them?

Contractions for conciseness

Daily conversations are often quick because of phonological processes like contractions and vowel reduction. For instance you’d likely hear a British saying: “I’d lika cuppa coffee” than “I would like a cup of coffee” in everyday conversations. 

Likewise, contractions in writing help you to maintain a casual tone. It allows readers to read faster. 

Online readers are lazy readers. (No offense, I’m one of them and know I’m Lazzyy to a ‘T’). And anything to save time is much appreciated. Contractions make sentences short, which are friendly to the sight and brain. 

It’s important to vary between long and short sentences, just as in real-life conversations. Sentences are sometimes long or short, depending on the point we’re trying to make.

Anecdotes and relatable examples 

Personal stories and illustrations your readers can relate to are straightforward ways to talk to your audience. They’re engaging and don’t give your readers a hard time getting the point. They give readers clarity and keep them interested.

In formal or informal settings, anecdotes and illustrations are good teaching tools. When you write, you share information you know and want to make an impact with that information. Sharing your experience and using relevant examples familiar to your audience is the perfect recipe for them to “feel” what you are saying. What better way to connect with them!

Bridge phrases for easy transition: 

Bridge phrases help the flow of your copy and encourage readers to read on. Phrases like “Here’s why,” “in a nutshell,” “that’s not all,” can bring back the spark in your writing. This technique works when you’re about to make an essential point, introduce a novel idea, or if your writing needs to be more exciting with a new burst of energy.

Be creative with words

Three ways to do this:

  • Make up compound adjectives or even new words. You may use “funnest” to describe how much fun something was, even though it’s a rule-breaking word. Notice the adjective I used to describe the word “funnest.” Compound adjectives are very descriptive and interesting. And very easy to form by just jamming two or more words together. For instance, instead of describing one as having a lazy attitude, you could describe that attitude as an “I can’t be bothered” attitude.
  • Break grammar rules. Don’t be afraid to break sentences and begin them with propositions like ‘or,’ ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘because,’ and even ‘while.’
  • Misspell words to mimic how it is said or use slang to lighten the mood. Words like gotcha!, hell ye, hott (for hot), lemme. 
  • Use parentheses to make side comments. I have done this a couple of times in this article. Side comments add important additional information or sometimes an afterthought on a lighter note. We do this all the time when we talk. A typical example is one I already used above: 

“Online readers are lazy readers. (No offense, I’m one of them and know that I’m Lazzyy to a “T”).

Get readers to ponder with Questions

By including questions, you give the impression that you’re thinking about your audience. It adds a personal touch to your writing. A conversation between two people often involves questions. Literary or rhetorical questions give your audience pause to reflect on an idea you introduced or a point you are trying to make. 

They can tell themselves the answers as your intent is not to force your opinions on them. And that’s what conversations are like. It’s a “what you think, what I think” situation. Your readers will certainly have their opinions and interpret ideas differently. 

In your writing, leave room for your readers to form an opinion based on your shared knowledge. You build affinity with your readers when you use questions instead of doing all the talking. You need to know if they feel the same way or differently, and questions help you achieve this.

Does it matter if you use the passive? 

I have heard people suggest that you use only the active voice to be conversational. But as I pointed out before, writing conversationally isn’t exactly how we speak. Sometimes, the only way to say something is the passive way. 

You, the writer, should know how to ideally alternate between the different voices. But passives should be used only when they are absolutely vital. Overall, you should have more active sentences than passive ones, as in day-to-day conversations. The active voice should be your go-to voice.

Don’t overdo it

Being informal doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. You must still pick your words carefully and appear polite and respectable to your audience. This implies that you avoid using words your audience might consider offensive. 

How conversational you can get depends on what writing guidelines you live by, what you are writing about, and what your audience likes. Always try to capture more of how your audience speaks when writing than how you speak. Strive for authenticity (being yourself) while appealing to your audience.

I would also like to say that the topic you are writing about should dictate which of these techniques you use. Topics set the mood of your piece to a large extent. Some topics can be less serious than others. 

You’ll need to choose the appropriate technique for every topic. For example, anecdotes or slang might be better in some cases than others. Generally, a mixture of two or more techniques does the magic. You shouldn’t be pressured to use all the methods if they don’t fit your writing context.