Writing website copy is something that many new website owners struggle with. Should you take a formal tone? Whimsical? Sarcastic? Whether your website covers a serious topic or leans toward a playful subject matter, one effective way to convey your message is to write in a conversational tone. Not only does it come more easily for inexperienced writers to write more casually, websites written in a conversational tone tend to be far more effective than website copy that sounds too formal or mechanical.
Why Write in a Conversational Tone?
A conversational writing style is incredibly important not only because it makes your business or brand more relatable, but it also makes your writing more persuasive and memorable. Recent studies have shown that people pay extra close attention to website content written in a conversational tone. When people read materials written in a conversational tone, it tricks their brain into thinking that they’re directly involved. Rather than talking at your audience, you’ll be talking with them. Unfortunately, most of us have spent our lives writing by following rigid grammatical rules.
Breaking this habit involves a bit of effort to communicate effectively and colloquially while being relatable. It is important to note that writing in a conversational tone does not equal to writing sloppily or using poor vocabulary.
How to Write in a Conversational Tone
There are many different ways to establish a conversational tone- you’ll each find a style that works for you. We’ll start you off with a few suggestions. The first is addressing the reader directly. An easy way to do this is to pretend like you’re writing to a close friend. The second is to forget formalities when writing. It is perfectly fine to break some grammar rules so that your writing is less arduous for your audience to read. Our third and final tip is to read your material out loud before publishing. Now, this tip may seem may seem like common sense, but listening to your writing is the surest way to make sure that your material will be easily understood by your audience. We’ll go into detail about how you can take action on each tip below.
1. Address Your Readers Directly
As previously mentioned, our first tip involves addressing the reader directly, as if you’re talking to a friend. This step truly helps establish a conversational tone. Formal writing consists of writing in primarily third person. In order to write conversationally, address the reader directly and write in either first or second person. First person writing involves writing from the subjective point of view and uses “I” and “we” (as well as my, mine, and ours). For example, rather than saying, “all people should try using first person narrative,” try saying, “we should try using first person narrative.” Second person writing involves writing using pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours.” For example, rather than saying, “one should use second person narrative,” try saying, “you should use second person narrative.”
Effective communication and great storytelling happens everyday in informal situations. How you speak to a friend conveys a sense of familiarity, partly because you’re not being restricted by the rules of “proper grammar”. But your natural intention is to solicit a reaction from him/her. Writing website copy is the same. You’re telling a story or conveying information in a relatable manner, to get your audience to take action.
2. Break Grammatical Rules
Our second tip involves forgetting formalities and sacrificing “perfect” grammar to write in a more relatable and engaging way. Before we go into detail about this tip, we would like to clarify that forgetting formalities is not an excuse to forget the fundamentals. Just because you’re writing in a conversational tone, it does not mean you should forget the basic rules of the English language. For example, never get sloppy with your spelling. There is a big difference between writing informally and writing like an elementary school student.
We have a few other tips to help you break the right rules of formal writing:
Vary Sentence Lengths
Varying sentence lengths is a great way to change up the pace and tone of your writing material. Layering longer sentences with shorter sentences will change the readers’ rhythm and prevent your writing from sounding too choppy or too verbose.
Begin Sentences with Conjunctions
Another way to create a conversational tone is start sentences with “and” or “but”. While beginning sentences with these words break some basic rules, they are great ways to maintain a conversational and natural tone. Starting with a conjunction is a great way to emphasize specific points as well.
Another way to break up long sentences is to occasionally use fragments. Really.
It’s quite uncommon to hear people say “do not” instead of “don’t”. Or say “will not” instead of “won’t”. Use contractions to make your website copy or blog posts sound less robotic and flow more naturally.
You’re trying to engage your readers. What better way to do that to ask them questions? Yes, we know- they won’t be able to answer you, but at least you’ll be getting them to participate while reading, instead of passively absorbing (or not absorbing) information.
Leave Out the Fancy Words
To establish a conversational tone, it is much more effective to be succinct and leave out the technical jargon. Think about it, we rarely use complex vocabulary or tortuous sentence structure in everyday conversations.
3. Read Your Copy Aloud
The last tip we have for creating a conversational tone on your website or blog is to read your writing aloud before publishing. Listen to yourself critically- are you conveying the same tone throughout the piece? Are you using words that you use in day-to-day conversations? And is your message coming through clearly to the “listener” or is it getting lost in jargon and unnecessarily long sentences?
Reading your copy aloud will also help you troubleshoot potentially problematic content structure. If you’re running out of breath to finish a sentence, then reevaluate and edit your copy.
If you want to connect to your audience and grab your reader’s attention, then writing in a conversational tone is the way to go. We promise.