How to Improve Your Content With Conversational Writing

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Have you ever stumbled across a sentence online that you had to stop and read twice? It’s frustrating and disruptive – and may even make you want to close the tab.

With so much content available online already – and more being published every minute (cough, AI, cough) – you can’t risk losing readers like that to writing that may come across as confusing. So, how do you avoid it?

Conversational writing.

If you’re not familiar with the conversational writing style, you're in the right place. This blog will explain what conversational writing is, help you understand why it’s so important in today’s digital landscape, and provide you with some action items you can start using to make your writing more conversational.

What is Conversational Writing?

Conversational writing is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a less formal style of writing that reflects how you – and, more importantly, how your audience – speak.

You can think of conversational writing as almost the opposite of how you wrote papers in college or high school. Compared to the stiff academic style you used to impress professors, conversational writing is more relaxed and involves using plain language.

The conversational writing style at its core is supposed to help get your message across more effectively. Your writing should be:

  • Simple
  • Relatable
  • Clear
  • Concise

In addition to the actual writing style, clear and concise writing is also about the flow of your content.

I often talk about making content more “digestible.” Notice how I used bullet points above? Have you seen the distinct headlines I'm using to segment this blog? Breaking up long chunks of text into bite-size sentences, shorter paragraphs, or lists helps improve the readability of your content.

Long, drawn-out paragraphs can be overwhelming to readers. Short, quick messaging is easier to understand and comprehend – or “digest.”

Why the Conversational Writing Style is So Important

Writing conversational content has always been important, but with recent search engine algorithm updates and the skyrocketing use of generative AI, it's more important than ever.

Think of how much content already exists online about the topic you're writing about. And how easy it is for your competitors to use AI to pump out even more content on that topic now.

So, how do you make your content stand out? By creating a connection with your audience, speaking their language, establishing trust, and keeping them engaged.

A conversational writing style is key to achieving those goals. Using the kind of language your audience uses helps them relate to you and makes you more approachable.

It also keeps our audience interested and more likely to continue reading, according to a study from the American Marketing Association. The group found that “language that is easier to process” and “language that evokes emotion” help keep an audience engaged.

How it Helps With SEO

In addition to resonating more with your readers, conversational writing also helps with Search Engine Optimization.

As we’ve discussed, a big part of writing conversationally is using words and phrases that your target audience uses. Chances are, those terms are similar to the keywords you want to rank for in order to reach that audience.

Writing your content with your audience in mind is also more in line with Google’s recent updates. If you’re not familiar, the search engine is placing a higher emphasis on helpful content that’s written for humans. Content that uses a conversational writing style is generally easier to understand, making it more helpful and user-friendly.

How to Make Your Writing More Conversational

So now that you know how important it is to write conversationally, how exactly do you do it? Here are some simple do’s and don’ts you can follow when writing to help.

DO: Write Like You Talk... Kind Of

Whether you’re a content writer or have just dabbled in writing blog posts, you may have seen this phrase in the wild before. But maybe you’re not sure what it means.

To be clear, it’s not saying you should write exactly like you talk. Think of how many times you say “um” or “like” when you’re talking out loud – that would translate terribly in writing.

It really doesn’t even mean you should write like YOU talk, necessarily.

So what does it mean? Two things.

One (and this is the most important part) is to write like your audience talks. Before you start writing, you should think about the audience you’re hoping to reach with your target and keep them in mind the whole time you’re writing.

Let’s say, for example, you’re a data analyst writing a blog post about why digital marketers should outsource their data needs. If data is your specialty and you’re trying to reach marketers, you probably have a higher level of knowledge on the subject. But you should try to cater your writing to your audience: digital marketers. That means using words and phrases they’re familiar with, not necessarily ones you are.

The second thing I mean when I say “write like you talk” is that you should use words and terms you would naturally use in a conversation with a colleague. Don’t use anything overly formal you wouldn’t say out loud.

Let’s take something I said above as an example.

  • What I Wrote: So what does it mean? Two things.
  • Another Way to Say It: The meaning of this phrase is two-fold.

Which one better reflects how you would talk in a conversation? (Hint: Try to remember the last time you said “two-fold” out loud while talking to someone.)

To figure out if you’re writing in a way that mirrors how you and your audience talk, try to read your writing out loud. It’s easy to miss a word that doesn’t flow or sounds too formal when you have so many words in front of you. Saying them out loud makes it much easier to catch.

DON’T: Assume Everyone Knows What You’re Writing About

Something I say often when I’m giving writing advice is, “write like no one knows what you’re talking about.”

That comes from feedback I received early in my career that stuck with me. At the time, I was writing news content. In this particular instance, I was working on an update to a story we had been tracking for a while.

When I had a colleague look over my first draft, they asked me if it would make sense to someone who had no previous knowledge of the story. (The answer was no, it wouldn’t have.)

So now when I’m writing, I like to provide as much context as I can on what I’m writing about.

The way I try to think of it is – I don’t want someone to have to stop in the middle of reading my content and Google what they’re reading about. Instead, I’d rather provide the information for them myself so I can keep them engaged and make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for in one place.

When you’re so close to a subject, it can be hard to gauge whether or not your writing is comprehensive and understandable to your audience. Have someone else read what you wrote – preferably someone who isn’t as familiar with the subject of your content – so they can give you honest feedback.

DO: Use Personal Pronouns

In order to develop a connection with your reader, you need to make your content feel personal and directed to them specifically.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by using personal pronouns like “you,” “we,” and “I.” Notice how I’ve used those throughout this article so far? I want this blog to read like I’m talking to you specifically (because I am!)

DON’T: Use Complicated Jargon & Acronyms

Want to show confidence in your expertise? Don’t use overly complex industry jargon.

That may come as a surprise, but studies have shown that using technical jargon can easily backfire and signal a lower level of confidence in the expertise you’re trying to convey. Even high-level domain experts prefer content they can easily read and comprehend.

Something else I stress often is spelling out acronyms on first reference. Obviously, there are some exceptions to that. You don’t have to spell out Informational Technology or Human Resources instead of writing IT or HR because those are universally accepted acronyms.

But if you’re using an acronym that may not be easily identifiable to everyone – or that may have multiple meanings, depending on your industry – it’s a good rule of thumb to spell them out before shortening.

DO: Use Contractions

You probably don’t take time in your conversation to say “do not” or “I am.” Instead, you shorten them to their contractions: “don’t” or “I’m.”

Using contractions in your writing better reflects how we speak out loud. Contractions are much more concise and don’t read as clunky.

DON’T: Be Afraid to Break Grammar Rules… Sparingly

As a former copy editor and stickler for AP Style, this is hard for me to say… but don’t be afraid to give yourself a little wiggle room when it comes to grammar rules.

I’m not saying you should publish content riddled with typos or glaring errors that make your article more difficult to read. What I am saying is you should feel comfortable bending the rules a little bit to cater to your audience.

For example, don’t be afraid to start a sentence with “but” or “and.” Try ending a sentence with a preposition.

If it makes sense to your audience and reflects how they talk, that’s the biggest priority.

One Last Reminder

When you’re writing web content, the most important thing to keep in mind is that there’s no cookie-cutter format to follow.

Every audience is different and the most important thing when it comes to content writing is meeting your audience where they’re at with content that will resonate with them.

Need help developing content that performs well organically and resonates with your audience? Contact us to get in touch with our Cypress North content team!

Categories: Content Marketing

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Meet the Author

HMonahan
Content Writer

Heather Monahan

Heather is a Content Writer who joined Cypress North in November 2022 and works out of our Rochester office. She brings nearly a decade of professional writing experience to our digital marketing team.

Some of Heather's daily responsibilities include writing content for our clients' websites and landing pages, writing ad copy, copywriting, and copy editing. She also helps manage our agency's blog, newsletter, and other internal content writing. Since joining Cypress North, Heather has earned HubSpot certifications for content marketing, inbound marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.

Before joining Cypress North, Heather spent more than eight years as a journalist, working as a news producer and digital content producer for local TV news stations. She most recently spent six years in Tampa, Florida, where she helped lead the digital team and oversaw the station’s growing digital initiative. While in Florida, Heather won a regional Emmy for her work on an interactive digital program that provided live hurricane coverage.

Born and raised in the Rochester area, Heather graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication.

When she's not working, Heather can be found taking approximately a million daily pictures of her dogs, geeking out over the latest space news, reading, or sharing tales of her time in Florida. She also enjoys skiing and cheering on the Buffalo Bills - even when they make her sad.