If you’ve ever applied to write for a company that posts your articles on their websites, then you know the massive restrictions they have for your copy. “Must use APA format.” Have you ever learned how to write in the APA format?
Because of the APA format, one of my biggest challenges was learning to write conversational. And to be successful in this business, that’s how you HAVE to write. And don’t forget the FK score (Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test) between 7 and 8.5.
You see, I went to college. I have a communications major. I was taught the formal art of APA writing (pretty sure I still have the manual somewhere). It was engrained into my brain that this is the ONLY way to write … the only acceptable form of written communication. It has to always be formal.
There are no contractions in APA writing. And you certainly don’t begin a sentence with “And!”
But, in our line of work, you do. You use contractions AND you begin sentences with “And.” Because that’s how we talk in real life. That’s how our conversations go.
So, I had the tedious task of breaking my ingrained thought process and begin writing how I speak.
Before I give away the simple way to break this formal pattern, I’m going to share how I used to write.
Here it is…
I would write, then walk away. Come back, edit. Read it out loud. Edit some more. Let it sit overnight. Read it out loud again. Edit.
Then I would ask myself, what would my friend Jennifer think of this? Would she be looking at me like a deer in the headlights? Would she be asking, “What?” Would she think it sounded like a canned speech, something produced by a robot? Would she be thinking I was speaking a different language?
Edit some more.
You get the picture.
Well, here’s the simple method to change this formal way of writing to the conversational way that’s much more inviting.
- Write as though you’re writing to one person. I mentioned my friend Jennifer. Because of the way your mind processes stuff, it’s important to hear yourself read. When I read my copy out loud, that’s who I’m envisioning I’m talking to. Do you really talk like that? If not, then it’s probably too formal.
- Write something every day. Write an article for your blog or something you can use to send to a prospect or client. Habits are broken through constant repetition; and writing every day will help you break the “formal” writing habit.
- Continue to write and walk away…even overnight. Then edit. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll see once you’ve cleared your mind of the work.
- Keep the FK score below 7.5. Yes, below 7.5.
I still find myself going back and changing two words into contractions. Why? Because that’s how I talk. It’s conversational.
Wouldn’t you rather read something that grabs your attention and keeps you reading to the end, or something dry that makes your mind wander? Yeah, so would most of your readers.
So, remember, when you’re writing (hopefully every day), remember to read your copy out loud. And pretend you’re reading to a friend. Does it really sound like you’re talking to a friend? Or does it sound like you’re reading from a script? This will keep your copy conversational and not formal.
There’s much more to this, but I won’t get into it here. See you soon!