How to Overcome the Challenge of Writing Conversational

If you’ve ever applied to write for a company that posts your articles on their websites, then you know the massive restrictions some of them have for your copy. For example, “Must use AP format.

But have you ever learned how to write in the AP format?

Because of the AP format, one of my biggest challenges was learning to write conversationally. And to be successful in this business, that’s how you HAVE to write.

You see, I went to college. I have a Communications major. I was taught the formal art of AP writing (I’m pretty sure I still have the manual somewhere). It was ingrained into my brain that this is the ONLY way to write … the only acceptable form of written communication. Therefore, it has to always be formal.

There are no contractions in AP 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.

Breaking a Formal Habit

So, I had the tedious task of breaking my trained brain and learning how to write how I speak.

Before I give away the simple way to break this formal pattern, I will 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?

Too formal.

Edit some more.

You get the picture.

Just Who Are You Writing This for Anyway?

Here’s the simple method to change this formal way of writing to a conversational way that’s much more inviting.

  1. 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.
  2. Write something every day (I cannot stress enough how important this is). For example, write an article for your blog or something you can send to a prospect or client. Habits are broken through constant repetition and writing every day will help you break the “formal” writing habit.
  3. 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.

I still find myself going back and changing two words into contractions.

Why? Because that’s how I talk. It’s conversational.

The FK Score – Very Important and Helpful

And don’t forget, the FK score (Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test) should be between 7 and 8.5. That’s an 8th-grade reading level, by the way. Unless you’re writing technical documents, your readers want something easy to read, not complicated and tedious.

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.

Keeping it Conversational

So, 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 easy to read … not formal.

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