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3 Tips for Conversational Business Writing

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“Corporate speak” can ruin your writing. Just be natural. (Photo: julief514)

In business, some people make the mistake of thinking that their writing has to be stuffy and formal. But a lot of writing—blog posts, video scripts, and newsletters included—should be conversational.

Some white papers and press releases tend to be a little more formal, but even with those projects you don’t want to overdo it.

Here are some tips to make your business writing more conversational.

1. Let go of the belief that all writing must be formal.

Changing this belief is the first step—without it, none of the other tips will stick.

Many people struggle with this because they think back to the type of writing they did in high school and college. If you took a class where you had to write research papers, you might have been told to eliminate certain pronouns such as I, you, we, and us. These rules usually don’t apply in business writing.

The ultimate goal should be to communicate clearly with your reader, and material written in a conversational style is usually easier to understand.

That’s one reason that a heavy use of business jargon and “corporate speak” can ruin marketing campaigns, internal memos, training documents, and other business materials.

Some businesses struggle with letting go of this notion. They think formal writing and business jargon will make them look smart, professional, and credible. Essentially, they think that this style will impress their clients. But that’s the wrong place to focus—instead, you should focus on getting through to the reader.

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Image of a quote that says, "Here is the ultimate goal in business writing: to communicate clearly. And a conversational style is usually easier to understand."

2. Pretend you’re writing to a close friend.

I get it. You’re used to being professional and serious at work, which carries over to your writing. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that when you’re working on a project that requires that formal corporate style—but it will lead you astray when you need a conversational tone.

On the other hand, when people are with friends, they tend to be more relaxed and laid-back, so their communication style is naturally conversational. You can leverage this by pretending you’re writing an email or a letter to a friend.

Don’t worry that this will make your writing too informal—you’ll use this tactic only on the first draft. You can clean it up later to make it more appropriate for your business project.

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Smartphones make it easy to record yourself reciting your text aloud. (Photo: Wang Tom)

3. Record yourself speaking, have it transcribed, and then edit the transcript.

Have you ever noticed that most people write in a more formal manner than the way in which they speak?

If you can write the way you talk, it’ll naturally come across as conversational.

Trying to write in the style in which you speak can be challenging, so one of the best ways to do this is by not writing in the first place—record yourself instead. Your smartphone makes this easy.

After you have the recording, it’s time to make a transcript. You can do this yourself or (because it’s so time consuming) have someone else do it for you.

Editing is the most important step here because the transcript will probably be filled with space fillers (such as um and uh), as well as a few tangents and incomplete thoughts. Think of this method as starting with a draft that’s 80% done, and all you have to do is clean it up.

At Super Copy Editors, we understand exactly how to help our clients achieve a conversational tone in business writing. Contact us today to learn more about our copy editing services.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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