Do You Write The Way You Speak? (You Should!)
Learn how to create a conversational style in your digital media, including video, blogs, teleseminars, webinars, and podcasts.
Remember when you were in school and your teacher told you not to write like you speak? Well, forget that advice. Why? Because it’s easier, much easier, to understand simple, conversational messages. And let’s face it, these days we’ve got way too many messages coming at us. So the simpler, the better, and the more likely your content will be consumed and acted upon.
Podcast, online videos, webinars, blog posts…really all digital content should to be written and delivered in a natural conversational style. Since we all speak on day-to-day basis, it would seem we should already know how to do this. But, in fact, delivering content in a conversational style is an acquired skill. Thankfully, it’s easy to learn. In this two-part article I’ll cover 10 quick and dirty tips to help you develop your unique conversational style.
Here are the first 4 tips:
Tip #1: Think and Speak Your Content First
The first step is to think about your content. Plant a mental seed. Let it marinate in your mind for a few days. This will allow you to naturally and effortlessly think about different ways to verbalize your ideas. It may sound silly, but you just need listen to that little voice in your head while you are mulling over your ideas in the shower or waiting in a line.
After I’ve given the topic enough thought, I sometimes go for a drive to capture my thoughts on a digital recorder. Other times, I’ll just record a conversation about the topic with a client or a colleague. Of course, if I happen to be delivering a presentation on the topic, I’ll record the presentation. This way, I’m sure to capture all the planned and unplanned content that spills out of my mouth.
If I try to directly type content first, I find myself editing along the way. It slows me down considerably. When I speak the content first, my fingers don’t interfere with the flow of information. And I’m more likely to capture the information in a conversational style.
Tip#2: Outline Your Content
Another option is outlining. Just jot down a few simple phrases for each key point along with possible examples. By using an outline, you can then talk efficiently and are also able to choose, on the fly, the best examples for your audience.
Remember, when you deliver the content, it doesn’t need to be exactly in the order it was prepared. For example, when I do radio interviews, I prepare my core messages ahead of time—each of them in outline form on separate large index cards. Then when I get asked a question, I choose from the prepared material what fits best. Then after a point has been discussed, I place the card in the “done” pile. This way, I can use the same outline for every interview on the topic. The end result is that I am able to easily create several unique conversational expressions of the same content.
Tip #3: Keep Your Sentences Short. Efficient.
[[AdMiddle]Next, it’s very important to recognize that we don’t speak the same way we write. Formal language just doesn’t sound comfortable.
Whereas formal written language contains complex and compound sentences that are grammatically correct, spoken phrases are generally much shorter.
Could you hear how awkward that sounded? Here’s how that should have been delivered.
Formal language contains complex and compound sentences. (Usually they’re grammatically correct). However, we speak using much shorter phrases.
Verbal language is simplistic. Usually, just one thought per sentence. Compound and complex sentences are just too difficult for our ears. So keep it short. Efficient. And, yes, it’s even OK to occasionally have a grammar error, if it helps to further or accentuate your point. Such as a sentence fragment. (I really hope Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl, isn’t reading this! She might disagree).
Tip #4: Sentence Structure Matters
Another difference is much more subtle. When writing in conversational style, the main idea or the main action should come first. So never start sentences with introductory clauses. Instead, sentences should be subject, verb, then object. For example:
““I’m writing this episode at the pool.”
“By writing this episode at the pool, my work was accomplished while watching my kids.”
The first sentence was much easier on your ear, right? By the way, that example also demonstrates three more rules: Always use the active voice. Use the present tense. And use contractions. After all, that’s how we talk.
Think and speak your content first
Outline your content
Keep your sentences short. Efficient.
Use a subject, verb, object sentence structure.
In part two of this series, we’ll cover 6 more tips to help you develop a conversational writing style.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker. Passionate about communication, your success is my business.
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I wrote a blog post that includes many great resources for developing a conversational style. It was the reason I wrote this episode.