“Write like you speak,” they said! “Just make it sound natural and informal,” they told you! You know your writing needs to be light, chatty & easy-to-read… because let’s face it, no-one sits down with a cuppa to read some of that stiff, formal, salesy content. But no matter what you try you just end up sounding like a cross between your old head mistress and an advert for washing powder. Well, don’t fret, writing conversational copy isn’t actually as complicated as most people make it – all you need to do is learn a few simple hacks, and break a few rules, and in this episode I’m going to be sharing with you 5 of my favourite tips for conversational copy.
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When you’re trying to communicate with your audience – how should your language sound? Clever? Pretty? Polite? Formal?
Nope. And yet when most people start writing content for their businesses that’s where they end up. The formal, proper, grammatically correct writing they learnt in the school room, or that you’d use to send a report to your boss’s boss.
And yet when you think about it when people are reading your copy, they’re not carving out time, sitting down in a nice quiet place with no distractions to contemplate your carefully crafted words… they’re reading it on their phone while watching Netflix, or waiting for the kids to come out of school.
And so if you want them to actually understand what you’re saying, you need to write in a way that’s easy on the ear (and the eye), and makes it effortless for your ideal reader or customer to understand what you’re trying to say – even when 75% of their attention is somewhere else.
So your copy needs to feel like you’re sitting down with your reader/ ideal customer having a friendly chat over a cuppa. Because, we know that’s the kind of writing that connects, compels and converts.
We call it conversational copy; essentially (but not literally) something that’s written in the same way that you would speak it. And this is how all your content and communications with your audience needs to flow if you want them to read it and understand what you’re saying.
But if you’ve ever tried it and failed, you’ll know that writing like you speak isn’t as easy as it seems. Luckily there are a few simple hacks that can instantly transform stodgy, boring, complicated copy, into something that’s easy, breezy…
and today I’m going to share with you my 5 favourite conversational copy hacks that you should always use from now on. Ready? Let’s go.
Conversational copy hack #1
It’s tempting to use big, more ‘grown-up’ or formal words when you’re writing. But actually in copy, short is always best. For a start, it makes you sound more like a real person (instead of a corporate robot), and secondly, since most copy is skim-read, which means that shorter and simpler words make it easier for your reader to quickly
understand what you’re saying.
Here are a few big word to small word swap examples:
Finalise…. Finish, complete
Conversational copy hack #2: Clear over clever
The question isn’t “can my copy be understood?”. The question is “could my copy be mis-understood?”
Yep, this is all about murdering your darlings AKA getting rid of those clever puns,
fancy words and poetic language that look pretty or impressive, but actually mask your message, make your meaning ambiguous, and leave your copy open to misinterpretation. Strip out the pretty stuff and your copy will nearly always be more powerful for it.
Conversational copy hack #3: Contractions
Erm, quite simply use them.
In real life we do not speak like this. You might occasionally say ‘do not’ instead of don’t, but usually only to make a real point. 99.9% of the time you’ll be using contractions. Won’t instead of will not. Can’t instead of cannot. It’s instead of it is. You get the gist…
If you would normally use a contraction when speaking, use it in your copy!
Conversational copy hack #4: Conjunctions
Because whatever your English teacher told you, in copy it’s ok to start sentences with them (just like I did there).
So what is a conjunction exactly (just in case English class feels like a long time ago)? Remember those little connector words: ”and’, ‘but’, ‘so,’ ‘for’ etc, that
you were told should never be used at the beginning of a sentence?
Well in copy, you can and you should…
When you start sentences with conjunctions it says to your reader “real person here!” Mainly because we start sentences with conjunctions in speech all the time.
But starting a sentence with a conjunction also helps break up otherwise overly long sentences, adds a nice natural rhythm to your words, and is an easy way to connect
one thought to another.
NB: Don’t do it all the time though, or you’ll sound like you’ve had one too
Conversational copy hack #5: If in doubt, speak it out
Still not sure if it’s conversational enough? Then read it out loud, and any words or sentences you stumble over, or sound weird, or just jar, need to be deleted, rephrased or rewritten. If you can’t say it out loud easily with flow, you’re reader probably can’t read it easily with flow either.
So there you go 5 little tips and tricks that will instantly make your copy sound more like you speak AKA conversational.
Here’s just a quick little recap for you:
- Use short words
- It’s more important that your meaning is clear than your writing sounds clever
- Use contractions – don’t won’t can’t
- Conjunctions – and, but, for, to – I know your english teacher would turn in her grave, but you CAN use them at the beginning of a sentence, because in speech we do it all the time.
- If in doubt speak it out.
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