Do you write like you talk?
There are some masterful content writers and it’s common to feel a tad intimidated by how well-written their articles are.
Feeling less than 100% confident in your writing may have led you to search “How to be a better writer” and found the following advice:
‘Write Like you Talk.’
If you’ve taken this advice to heart, be careful because it’s not the best advice.
Although you can get away with it on social media (depending on your business), it’s not good advice when it comes to writing articles. It’s meant for the novice writer— to stop them writing like the mouthpiece of academia. (Unfortunately, even today, many writers still haven’t listened).
Advertising man, David Ogilvy is believed have coined the original phrase, but there’s a word missing from the quote, and that word is naturally.
Write like you talk—naturally.
~ David Olgilvy, Advertising Tycoon
The suggestion to ‘write like you talk’ shouldn’t be taken literally
When someone recommends that you write like you talk what they mean is write in a conversational style. Like a chat with an acquaintance, but with a bit of polish.
When we speak, we don’t usually pay great attention to word choice or sentence formation. Eavesdrop on any conversation and you’ll hear half-finished sentences, sudden changes of direction, slang, ums and ahs and other filler words. Because as Australian’s this is how we ‘talk’.
Hey, How ya going? Dya wanna have coffee? Nah, sorry, can’t. Gotta go.
Writing online obviously requires more formality than the above example, however too much formality sounds impersonal and stuffy—it requires a balance. After all, you want to sound professional and approachable, but you also want to sound like ‘you’.
So how do you achieve this?
Ignore the advice write like you talk and Make Your Writing Conversational
Keep words simple
Don’t use convoluted words when a simple one will do. People will switch off if they don’t know what you’re talking about. Therefore, avoid using jargon, unusual words or sounding like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus.
Use simple sentences
Say what you want to say in the simplest way possible, using simple words, then add a couple of interesting words to spice it up.
Lose the words you don’t need
Avoid using weasel words (words that suck the life out of the words next to them). These include words and phrases such as just, virtually, a bit, having said that, almost, fairly etc., and are common in a lot of writing. These words are vague, unnecessary and weaken your writing. If in doubt, read the sentence out loud, first with the weasel word, and then without it. If it makes your sentence sharper without changing the meaning, omit the word.
Plan in advance how your piece will connect with your reader
Using a conversational tone with a touch of empathy and blended with personality, will go along way to developing a connection with your reader. This powerful combination works because it shows them that you understand how they feel and what they’re thinking. And they’ll like you for it because as they’re reading they’re thinking— this person really gets me!
So let your personality shine through in every piece you write. Choose your words to match your tone of voice and create a mood for the piece. Plan it out in advance to suit the content. Will it be serious/passionate/informative/edgy/personal/wry or fun?
Read your writing out loud
Is your writing music to your ears? Does it have rhythm, does it crescendo and fall? Does it flow? Does it make sense. Does it speak to your reader?
When someone reads, they hear the words in their head. And what they want to hear is you speaking directly to them. Like you’re reaching out of the screen to connect.
Give Your Writing Rhythm
To get the rhythm vary your sentence length
A long sentence shouldn’t have more than 25 words. A short sentence can have one word. Honestly. Break up long sentences with a short one to add punch.
Keep your paragraphs short
Writing is visual and short paragraphs catch the eye and look inviting to read because they’re surrounded by white space. Unlike long paragraphs, which look discouraging. And please avoid walls of text.
Contractions are more casual and we use them in conversation. So also use them in your writing to sound more relatable. For example:
- You’ve instead of you have.
- Don’t instead of do not.
- Could’ve instead of could have.
Use interjections to express feelings or sudden emotion
Words like Phew. Duh! Yikes and Ouch are fun and convey a sense of humour and are suitable for informal and casual language, but don’t overdo it.
- Avoid them in formal writing if you want to be taken seriously.
To make your writing personal
Keep your one reader persona in mind and write directly for them.
- Use the word you instead of I.
‘You may’, ‘
‘Here are 7 tips for you to’
and so on.
- Have a point of view.
- Tell a story.
Finally, Edit Well
You may have heard of this well-known phrase—The magic’s in the editing.
It’s a well known fact that no one ever publishes a first draft. Every piece will go through a series of edits before it’s published.
I edit several times. Often I leave it until the next day then re-read it and edit some more.
If you have someone to read it through and edit the piece for you, even better, a different perspective always helps if you’re too close to the piece.
If it’s just you then have a go at using an AI tool like https://ttsreader.com/ to hear your writing. From personal experience I find it amazing how many things I pickup that I missed before.
But what if you’re comfortable writing like you talk?
You may be someone who always dictate your articles. If this is the case, my advice is to do so for the first draft. Then give it some polish— read it out aloud and edit it until you’re happy to hit publish.
In today’s world, where content drives business, there’s no excuse for lazy writing. The reader will not enjoy the experience and you’ll be wasting your time. So please ignore the advice to write like you talk and write like the professional you are.