Do you remember when you were in school?
All those essays and term papers you had to write?
I ask because one of the things you learned is causing issues for you now.
What if I told you changing this one habit will attract more prospects?
And I’m going to show you what it is so you can implement it right away.
Breaking a Formal Habit
Have you noticed the restrictions for writing copy on some job descriptions (even for guest blogging)? For example, “Must use APA format.”
Have you ever learned how to write in APA format?
If you have any type of formal education, you have.
My college experience had me walking away with a BS in Business Communications.
Talk about formal writing!
The very first book I had to purchase was The Little Brown Compact Handbook, complete with the latest APA changes. (I still have that little manual).
I was told every paper and essay would be in APA format unless otherwise instructed.
My roommate and I were on the same degree track, so we had the pleasure of reviewing and editing each other’s essays.
“Connie,” I said, “You have a bunch of contractions in this essay.”
“Ugh! Do I really? I thought I caught them all,” she replied.
Then she would say, “Well, you have ellipsis where there shouldn’t be.”
We’d give our papers back and edit (you get points knocked off your grade for these errors).
Because of the APA format, one of my biggest challenges was learning how to write conversationally.
Formal writing saturated my brain, making it the ONLY way to write – the only acceptable form of written communication.
Therefore, everything I write must always be formal. Right?
Sounds like fake news to me!
Writing conversationally means you write like you speak. It’s not formal, it’s inviting!
There are no contractions in APA writing. And you certainly don’t begin a sentence with “And!”
If you’re looking to win customers, you use contractions, AND you begin sentences with “And.”
Because that’s how we talk in real life. And it makes it easier to read.
Your reader will understand you better if what you write sounds like a conversation and not like you’re reading from a formal script.
Formal Has to Go
So, to become a professional copywriter, I had the tedious task of breaking my academically trained brain and learn to write how I speak.
Before I give away the simple way to break this formal pattern, here’s how I used to write.
I would write, then walk away. Come back, edit.
Let it sit overnight.
Sounds great. Very formal.
You get the picture.
But then I learned how to write conversationally.
Always write and walk away (you’ll be amazed at the ideas your brain produces once you’ve cleared the mental chatter).
When I come back, I have new ideas to make more edits.
And the icing on the cake is this …
I read my copy aloud as if I’m talking to my friend Jennifer. What else could make this more conversational?
When you read – out loud – you can hear how formal or conversational your copy is.
As you go along (reading to your friend), you’ll realize, “I don’t talk like that.”
You’ll catch the formal tone and make the necessary changes.
Know Who You’re Writing To
As a copywriter and consultant, I write and examine many articles and posts.
Writing conversationally and knowing who you’re writing to is key.
You need to get inside the reader’s head.
You need to be creating valuable and relevant content for them.
To do this, you need to know specifically who your target audience is and what will solve their problem.
Let’s say you’re writing something for the bowling industry. You need to use bowling jargon (spare, strike, split, turkey, etc.).
Because if they can relate to what you’ve written, you’ll keep their attention.
This also means you need to be empathetic. If what you write resonates with them emotionally (they “feel” what you’re writing), then you really have their attention!
Using the industry jargon will do this.
“The only way on Earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.” – Dale Carnegie
Keep Your Writing Simple
Your writing should be at an 8th-grade reading level or below.
Use the FK score (Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test) feature when you write. The score should be below 8.0 (lower is better).
Keep the paragraphs short. No one wants to read a dissertation unless they have to.
Keep the sentences short. Much easier to read. You can even use sentence fragments!
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?
Same for your readers.
Because That’s How We Talk
So, the “Big Secret” to writing to win customers is – writing conversationally!
Here are three simple ways to change a formal way of writing to a conversational way that’s relevant to your reader and much more inviting.
- Write as though you’re writing to someone you know. I mentioned my friend Jennifer. Because of how our minds process stuff, it’s important to hear yourself read (yes, out loud). Ask yourself, “Do I really talk like that?” If not, then it’s probably too formal.
- Know who you’re writing to. Get inside their head by using their jargon or what you know interests them. This will make your writing catch their attention and keep them reading.
- Keep it simple – 8th-grade reading level or below. Lower is better. Microsoft Word has the FK score built into its editor. Or you can Google it. There are plenty of options to choose from.
I still find myself going back and changing two words into contractions because that’s how I talk.
Stop the Formal Madness
Formal writing is the best if you’re doing a thesis, term paper, any type of good journalism, or explaining a product, but not if you’re trying to get someone’s attention to become your customer.
So, when you’re writing (hopefully every day), remember to read your copy aloud.
And pretend you’re reading to a friend.
You’re trying to win customers – not put them to sleep!
This will keep your copy conversational, easy to read, and relevant.
Your prospects will love it!
If you’d like help winning customers by writing conversationally, contact me at 512.917.2109 or on LinkedIn.