Do You Write the Way You Speak? (You Should!), Part 2
6 More tips on how to write and speak for the digital world.
Conversational language has become the language of the internet. So if you’re creating digital content, it’s crucial that you write it in a conversational style.
Last week, I gave you 4 tips on how to write the way you speak. Today we’ll tackle part two of the series with 6 more tips for developing a conversational style.
Click here for Tips 1-4.
Tip #5: Use Strong Action Verbs
Action verbs add color and passion. Often we tend towards verbs of being, which sound passive. Instead of saying “Maria is on the couch” (boring), write “Maria sank into the couch” (much more interesting). Or instead of “The house was on fire,” how about “Flames erupted from the second floor windows.”
Try to avoid adverbs or description words that need a verb to cling to. “Emily put on her swimsuit by swaying her hips back and forth” is not as good as “Emily wiggled into her swimsuit.” The point is, a strong well-chosen verb is usually much more powerful than any convoluted description.
Tip #6 Use Everyday Words
My teachers used to encourage me to use 50 cent words (and develop a big vocabulary). Today teachers might refer to these as dollar words or maybe even five dollar words. However, for conversational content, try to choose nickel or dime words.
So why did I just use the word “convoluted” a few sentences ago?
To be clear, what I’m suggesting is that you don’t use a long word when a short one will do. I’m not suggesting you “dumb down” your content by selecting simple words even when the best word to convey your meaning is a big word.
Tip #7 Start With an Emotional Opening Story
Conversational style by definition relies on a story to deliver messages. Stories allow you to slowly and naturally reveal your content in the same way you would in a real conversation. Draw your audience in by starting with a strong, emotional story about the message you want to convey. Effective stories allow you to connect with your audience by tapping into their hopes, dreams and aspirations or by stirring up their fears and frustrations. Check out my three-part series about how to effectively connect with your audience through stories (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)
Tip #8 Mark and Record Your Script
If you plan to audio record your content from a written script, you’ll want to mark-up your script. I indicate short pauses and long pauses so I know when to breathe. I also look for the words that carry the most meaning and mark them so that I know to emphasize them in some way when I deliver the content (whether by changing the tone, speed, or volume of my voice). The idea is to insert changes in your speech because we naturally take notice when changes occur and that helps us to focus on the meaning.
Marking up a script at first seems very time consuming, but with practice, it does get faster. And, the recording process itself will be faster because you will be more fluent by using a marked-up script.
Also, going through the content just before you deliver it refreshes it in your mind and makes for effective delivery. It also makes it much easier to do a “scoop and talk” technique.
[[AdMiddle]Here’s how you “scoop and talk:” First, you scoop by reading a line in your script, then you look up and deliver the line spontaneously. This way the line sounds conversational. In fact, you might even change a word here or there by accident, but the meaning will stay the same. Again, you are striving for natural conversation and scoop and talk guarantees it.
Tip #9 Talk to Someone Specific
Imagine you are talking to one person, someone you know, rather than an audience of thousands. In fact, this is very common advice given to professional broadcasters.
I know this firsthand because my delivery improves when I keep a specific person in mind. When I record my Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts, I keep a picture of my friend Linda on my iPad and pretend I’m talking to her. I say “Hey Lin, how you doing? How's Sean? You know I wanted to tell you...” then, I dive into my prepared script or outline. This helps me to be conversational because I am imagining talking to her as if I’m on the telephone. Sometimes, I need to say her name a few times during the recording or I’ll slip back into talking at you, instead of with you!
Tip # 10 Be You (Everyone Else is Taken)
Don't try to emulate the sound or style of others. You need to use your own authentic voice. For example, commercial radio announcers talk at a greater volume and with more hype. Business professionals will likely sound more like the authoritative voices on National Public Radio. You don’t want to sound like them. The idea is to speak with YOUR authentic voice. Speak at a pace and pitch that is natural to you. It’s OK if you speak with an accent. Your natural voice is part of the secret for engaging your audience.
So there you have it, 6 more tips to help you develop a conversational style. So give it shot, then prove your abilities by submitting your communication challenge story – details found on my blog and facebook page. This is Lisa B. Marshall, The Public Speaker (with my natural Philadelphia accent). Passionate about communication, your success is my business.
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