When it comes to talking, we don't have to think much. Words and phrases move effortlessly from our brains to our mouths. Heck, sometimes we don't even use our brains at all -- the words just pop out of our mouths faster than a booty at a Beyoncé concert.
But when it's time to sit down and write? Total crickets.
Something just...happens when we stare at a blinking cursor. We feel pressured when we start writing an article or a blog post, or even an email. It's like we need to say something brilliant, witty, powerful, brilliant, and meaningful. Also: witty. We forget what writing actually is --a way to communicate with someone -- and think that it needs to produce this glorious piece that's utterly perfect in every way.
But that couldn't be further from the truth. When it comes to writing in a conversational tone, it really doesn't have to be so difficult. Really. In fact, it can actually be pretty enjoyable, if you loosen up and approach things a little differently:
Get familiar with how you sound. Since we don't consciously think about how we talk, you might not even know what makes your speaking unique. Record yourself on client calls or while catching up with a friend -- just make sure to get their permission first. Play it back and notice things like what words you use, what your phrasing is like, how you make a point, and how you incorporate emotion. You'll learn a lot just by observing your speaking patterns, and it'll make the writing process that much easier.
Picture one person. It's intimidating to think about dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people reading your work online. So instead, imagine you're talking with just one person. A good friend, over coffee or a glass of wine. Think about how you would speak to that person. What words would you use? What kind of tone would you have? What examples or anecdotes would you throw in to clarify your points? Write like that, instead of how you would speak to a faceless crowd.
Talk it out. When you're having a hard time getting words onto paper, bust out your smartphone and record a voice note. Talk through what you want to write about as if you're answering a question you were asked during an interview. Then play it back, transcribe it, and boom -- you've got a rough first draft. Speaking of which...
Write a garbage draft. Writing the first draft is the hardest part of the whole writing process. So don't sweat it. Give yourself permission to stink. The first draft can be garbage as long as it's something. Set a time limit and get as many words as humanly possible on the page. You'll be surprised at how much easier writing feels when your goal is to just write something, rather than write something groundbreaking.
Edit like a champ. Editing is 5,000% easier than writing (give or take a few percentage points.) The goal of the first draft is just to get your thoughts on paper and give you some structure. Then go back and edit the pants off your piece. It's the editing where the true magic happens, and where you can really juice up your copy with personality. You can go back and edit as many times as you want -- so take your time and have fun with it.
Keep a word bank. One technique I use when I write for my clients is to create a word bank for them. I'll note the words or phrases that my client uses in our conversations, and then pepper them throughout the copy when I edit. Do the same for yourself -- have a place where you store all the words you love to use, and incorporate them into your copy in the editing stages.
Give it that extra liiiiittle somethin' somethin.' When you speak, you use gestures, props, facial expressions, eye rolls, and different voices to spice up your dialogue. Writing? Not so much. But you can use punctuation and style to make your words jump off the page. Bold, italics, parentheses, ellipses, and that fancy emdash -- a long dash to indicate a pause or an aside -- add tons of personality to your writing. These visual cues help readers hear what you're saying, instead of just reading it. And that's the name of the game when it comes to copy that speaks like you do.
Ignore the grammar police. When it comes to conversational writing, even famous authors agree that grammar rules don't always apply. When in doubt about grammatical correctness, write how you would say it aloud. Saying "in which city does he/she live?" might be technically correct, but who would actually say it like that? "What city do they live in?" is the more natural sounding choice.
Read it out loud. When you're all done writing, read your piece out loud. (Even if you feel like a weirdo sitting alone in your bedroom.) Are there any parts that make you cringe when you read them? Are there any phrases that feel totally unnatural and foreign coming out of your mouth? If so, scrap them. If you're feeling uncomfortable, they're obviously not phrases you would normally use. So go back and write those sections in a way that feels good.
One final note: be you. Sometimes in an attempt to bring more flavor into your writing, you can add the wrong personality into your copy. If you have a sarcastic, wry sense of humor and your copy is full of "super-cute"s and "crazypants"s, it's going to come off as inauthentic. So just stay true to who you are, and don't try to fit someone else's writing style to your own. We've all got our unique voices, so make sure you're using yours. Always.
What other tips do you have for writing copy that sounds like you?
Whitney Ryan is a copy + content creator obsessed with helping small businesses build genuine relationships with their customers. A lifelong fan of brands who treat their customers right, she helps her clients effectively connect, compel, and convert their audiences using authentic copy and captivating social media. To take clear, personal communication to the next level, download a free social content calendar template by clicking here.
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