4 ways to turn your writing into a conversation

Most of you probably learned to write through essays and other assignments at school. Then you wrote memos, emails and reports at work. No wonder your writing doesn’t always grab your readers, let alone persuade them to think more highly of you or buy your services.

Worry no more. All you have to do is write like you talk–only better.

Blogs and other social media have trumpeted the concept of writing as a conversation.

For many of you, this has injected life into your writing. But some are still struggling, not only with social media conversations, but also with adding the personal touch that can raise your practical work writing from mundane to memorable.

If you’d like your writing to become more personal and compelling, try this:
1. Ditch the editorial “we” and third-person style, where the writer is an objective observer. Write as “I” to “you,” your target reader.
2. Write like you talk. Use sentence fragments, slang, dangling prepositions, contractions and other traditional-rule benders. Ask questions. Tell people what to do or think. In a good way, of course.
3. Tell stories. Not long-winded tales, but quick anecdotes that reinforce the point you’d like to make, containing just enough personal detail and feeling to help your reader relate.

For example, I was inspired to write this post after editing an email newsletter that was replacing a formal, government-agency print publication. I applied these principles, including a quick story about the publisher visiting her neighbourhood agency. The goal was to introduce the editor in such a friendly way that readers would subscribe and contact her with success stories they’d like to share.

I realize some of you who are accustomed to formal business writing will find it difficult to channel a conversational voice. Here’s a bonus tip for you:
4. Instead of getting overwhelmed with data and other concerns, simply think about the response you want from your readers. With that goal in mind, write a quick rough draft, pretending you are talking to them. On your second draft, you can add your facts, figures and formal definitions or fix mistakes.

My point is to let the words flow from your brain to your finger tips, silencing your inner English teacher, boss or other interference in your head.

Because it helps bring together writer and reader, personalization works for most writing, even business communication. While the degree of formality will vary with the culture, audience and medium, you are far more likely to touch your readers if you adopt some of these conversational techniques.

It’s a well-worn saying that people buy from people, not companies. The same goes for writing. People want to know what other people have to say. They are far more likely to listen, engage and continue the conversation, if it’s personal.

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