Five Easy Ways to Write in a More Conversational Style

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If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably been told at some point that you should “write in a conversational style.”

It’s common advice – for some book authors, not just for bloggers. When I wrote Publishing E-Books for Dummies, Wiley wanted a conversational style too.

Real life conversations, though, have a lot of features that don’t seem to support good writing. In a conversation with friends, you might:

  • Jump around between different topics
  • Take a while to get to the point
  • Use in-jokes (where an outsider wouldn’t get the joke)
  • Use ungrammatical constructions – e.g. “Him and me went to the shops…” rather than “He and I went to the shops…”

A disjointed, rambling blog post full of references that no-one will understand and written with non-standard grammar isn’t going to be a great post.

So what do bloggers, editors and publishers mean when they ask for a “conversational style”?

They’re looking for writing that has the flavour of a real conversation without attempting to replicate it. In particular, they’re looking for writing that’s not too formal, that addresses the reader directly, that shows a light sense of humour, and that’s written in a way that’s easy to engage with.

I’m going to take you through some key ways to write in a conversational style … with concrete examples of how you can achieve each one.

#1: Staying Fairly Informal

Conversational writing is fairly informal writing. I like to think of it as if I’m writing an email to a casual friend: I’d make it grammatical and coherent, but I wouldn’t be stuffy!

Two easy ways to make your writing more informal are to:

  • Use contractions (e.g. “don’t” for “do not”, “I’m” for “I am”)
  • Use regular, everyday language (e.g. “saw” rather than “observed”)

#2: Talking Directly to the Reader

Conversations require more than one person … and this is something you can use in your blog posts (or articles, or book chapters). Write as if you’re talking directly to your reader: this comes across as friendly and immediate.

For instance, a few paragraphs ago, I didn’t write:

“This post will discuss some key ways to write in a conversational style … with concrete examples of how to achieve each one.”

Instead, I wrote:

“I’m going to take you  through some key ways to write in a conversational style … with concrete examples of how you can achieve each one.”

#3: Bringing in Personal Experience

While this isn’t something you have to do to achieve a conversational style, I find it often helps to bring in some of your personal experience with the topic at hand.

That could be something as simple as a single sentence – e.g. in the introduction, I explained, “When I wrote Publishing E-Books for Dummies, Wiley wanted this type of style too.”

Just like using “you”, using the word “I” helps to draw a closer connection between you and the reader.

#4: Having a Sense of Humour

I’m not a naturally funny person and I sometimes have to make an effort with this one! But a little bit of humour can make your writing more engaging and accessible. You don’t have to crack jokes – you might gently poke fun at yourself, for instance.

In my post Why You Should Stick to One Name for Each Character in Your Novel, I wrote:

I’m “Mummy” to my kids, occasionally “Mum” (they’re not convinced that I even have another name).

While it’s not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, I’d hope that line at least raises a wry smile from fellow parents.

#5: Being Open to Responses

In a conversation, you (hopefully!) don’t do all the talking.

One simple way to make your posts more conversational is to ask for responses: to invite comments where readers can tell you what they think about a particular topic.

Like most bloggers, I tend to do this with an explicit invitation at the end of the post (and you’ll see one in a moment!) – but sometimes it can be helpful to pave the way for comments earlier on. This could mean writing something in your introduction like, “I’m sure I don’t have all the answers – so as you read through, if you feel that I’ve missed something out, do share it in the comments.”

 

So, over to you … what would you consider to be hallmarks of “conversational” writing? Do you deliberately try to make your own writing conversational – and if so, how do you do that? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for commenting! I read all comments, and reply to as many as I can. Please keep the discussion constructive and friendly. Thank you!

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14 thoughts on “Five Easy Ways to Write in a More Conversational Style

  1. Hey Ali,

    Really good thoughts about writing in a conversational style.

    In my case, when I write a blog post, I consider myself as my reader. I write as I talk with myself. I consider myself as my friend.

    In this way, I can think deeper. I can see the thing more clear. This helps me to write in more conversational style.

    However thanks for sharing your nice thoughts.
    Liton Biswas’s last blog post ..What is Affiliate Link Cloaking And How to Use It in Your Blog

  2. Well, I’m hardly a parent, but that line got a smile out of me.

    As you know from my blog critique, I definitely try to employ a conversational tone. I never really thought about what goes into it, though—it kind of just happens. I also exaggerate it a little bit on some posts, since I’m talking about science and it’s hard to know if my audience is really on the same page with me. I suppose there’s a fine line between conversational and condescending, and as a science writer, I should strive not to so much as walk it.

    • I think you do a great job with finding that balance! It sounds like the conversational tone comes naturally to you, which is great. 🙂

      • One suggestion you’ve made in this post that I have tried (and epic failed) to employ is the invitation of discussion. I’ve found that ending a post with a bolded question is very common on blogs about writing—I first encountered it on The Write Life, and then again on your blog, and on countless others. I tried doing the same thing and got exactly zero responses. One reader once commented that science posts don’t really invite people to think about their own experiences—I’m essentially preaching facts, not opening avenues of discussion. I suppose the idea is a little bothersome…since when was science not all about being inquisitive? Am I doing something wrong?
        Emma’s last blog post ..Visual Binary Stars

        • Hmm … this is a tricky one, because I can sort of see where your readers might be coming from here! Perhaps they view your blog a little bit like Wikipedia — somewhere to go for interesting facts and ideas — rather than somewhere to *talk*, necessarily?

          Some bloggers have an occasional “discussion” post where they particularly invite readers to weigh in … I don’t know if something like that could work for you? E.g. asking readers to share a science-related question they have?

          Or another option is to have a post that sets up more of a debate (e.g. looking at the “for” and “against” of a particular idea and asking readers to weigh in) — I’m not sure how that would work with most branches of science, though, unless you want to give air time to some seriously weird views (flat earthers etc…)

          • I started doing something like that question post, actually. And then I discontinued it in favor of sticking a question submission form up in the menu, since I didn’t want to restrict *when* people felt free to ask questions. But…I suppose I could send out a post now and then anyway? Maybe the static submission form and actually prompting them now and then don’t have to be mutually exclusive?
            Emma’s last blog post ..Spectroscopic Binary Stars

            • I think having both is a great idea — I find that people often need a reminder (or even a deadline) in order to act, much of the time! It’s why I periodically remind my readers about things like the newsletter, despite the fact it’s not exactly hard to find in the menu and sidebar… 🙂

    • Thanks, Kathy!

      And that’s an interesting suggestion — I don’t have a strong view on the headings (my only requirement, of me and of others, is to be consistent with headings and lists), though now I’m looking at them again and wondering if they’d be better changed!

      When I wrote for Wiley, their For Dummies guidelines explicitly asked for chapter headings starting with “-ing” verbs, so maybe I got into the habit then.

      Do you feel the imperatives sound more conversational? Or do you think they just read better?

  3. Hey Ali,

    Writing a post in conversational ways attracts more users and create a strong bond with them. I usually write posts keeping my audience in my mind. I know what they want from me or through my blog posts. Relevancy plays a great role here. I usually end my post with a call to action that motivates my readers to engage with my content. Thanks for sharing these great insights here.

    Have a Great Day 🙂
    Vishwajeet
    Vishwajeet Kumar’s last blog post ..The 8 Types of Content Blog Readers Expect in 2018

    • Thanks Vishawajeet! I think ending with a call to action is always a great idea — and inviting readers to comment often makes very good sense there. 🙂

  4. Thanks Ali for those tips. I found that when I am more conversational on my posts I also get a green light on the Yoast panel in WordPress. Less passive voice which helps make my posts easier to read.

    • That’s a good point, Marc: conversational language does tend to be engaging and direct.

      I think the passive voice can sometimes be a good choice, but often, it’s easy to slip into being passive when an active sentence would be better.