How to Write Conversationally

Image courtesy of [nokhoog_buchachon] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of [nokhoog_buchachon] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So my last post talked about lists and tables and I felt a sense of gratification that my readers find my content useful.  Thank you all! I know that I was (mia) – missing in action – for about a week, but the “second wind” can create winners!

Writing conversationally sounds easy enough, since we have myriads of conversations every day.  On the phone, in person, by email, on the Web, and on social media, for example.   But when it comes to Web writing, the most engaging conversationalist can write the most “stuffy” Web content!

Spoiler alert…I am not and do not think that I am the world’s best writer…not by a very long shot! But, I love reading good writing where I can get engrossed in the many conversations, and identify with the characters in a story.  This is one of the reasons why we buy books, right? So, even if you are not a “writer” you could write conversationally. Following these five tips will help:

Tip #1: Your conversational writing should be written in your unique tone, similar to your spoken conversational style. Writing conversationally does not mean that you have to follow any rigid composition rules or follow grammar rules found online whatsoever. My written conversations mirror verbal conversations, and so should yours.

Tip#2: Read up on good conversational writers in order to get a feel for the phrases and words that they use to win their Web audiences and try to assimilate the good parts of your research into your written conversations.

Tip #3: As Web writers, we write for audiences. However, key to writing conversationally is to zero in on your favourite person from your audience and write as though you are speaking directly to that person only. And, always use a lot of “you” and “I” in your writing so that your readers believe that you are speaking to them.

Tip#4: Know your content?  It’s as simple as that. For example, I have found writing about Web Writing, a fairly easy task.  In fact, the ideas are always flowing and I often spend quite some time trying to edit the content to sizable portions.  Part of the reason is that I can comfortably talk about the topic.  Just as in verbal conversations, I can easily write in the same tone.

Tip #5: While your objective is to engage audiences, be wary of going overboard.  For example, if you use excessive curse words in your daily conversations, you may need to engage “Mr. Censor Ship,” in order to keep it clean.   Or else, you can sit back and watch your next big job or business contract slip through your oozing fingers.

In essence, to write conversationally, be persuasive, clear, and engaging.  Follow Tips 1 through 5, and then feel free to tell us what you do to make your writing more conversational.

Advertisements

Lists and Tables Simplify Life!

Lists
Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever tried writing a document – especially for the web – that ends up being too long or wordy? Well, here’s a tip.  Break up your content by placing it in lists or tables. Using lists and tables appropriately, allows you to cut down on prose and make your writing easier for your web readers to skim and quickly digest the content, while still conveying your intended message.

Tip #5 – Lists & Tables

Lists – Many bloggers believe that using lists, is a sure way to get attention on social media.  Lists make your content clearer and give web readers consistent points from which to grab information. But great and well-written content will always be the main feature that keeps your readers’ attention.

Redish, in her book, “Letting Go of the Words” proffered these four guidelines for writing useful and usable lists:

  1. Use bulleted lists for items or options
  2. Use numbers lists for instructions
  3. Keep most lists short, that is, five to ten items
  4. Ensure lists are well-formatted.  Presentation helps readability.
Stuffed Bear Rates
Table created by Andrea Myers Tanguay


Tables
– As a communication tool…a table provides a familiar way to convey information that might otherwise not be obvious or readily understood (Wikipedia).  Tables help you organize data on your page.  For example, tables are best used to present a comparison of precise values, or values expressed in multiple units of measure.  Tables are also used to answer “if…then” questions.  From my “Stuffed Bear Rates” example, if you purchased 16 bears, then the unit cost per bear is 96 cents.

Two keys to the successful use of tables, are: keep them simple, and properly formatted with left-justified text.

Tables and lists are two tools that web writers should have in their writing arsenal. While tables are more used to present complex data, numbered or not, lists are more frequently used to display a variety of other content.

As web consumers, we have all inadvertently met “listicle.” (An article that consists of lists of items only) Though I find it an over-used construct, listicles have taken centre-stage; showing up in large numbers and stealing the show. Examples are: “10 reasons why you should not study social media” or “17 ways to create great content.”  Just google “listicle” and you will not be surprised!

Talking about surprises, I will discuss: “5 Great Ways to Write Conversationally” in my next post 🙂

Eye-Catching Headings Get Noticed!

Our world as we know it is full of quiet noises. The web, and its millions of websites and blogs, Facebook and Twitter posts, and everything in between, feeds us constant diets of sometimes unpalatable content.

As a web consumer, you are also a web writer. This means that somebody reads your content. 

What can we do to let your content stand out?  Be relentless!  Safeguard what you write from it being tossed into the abyss of poorly written walls of boring content, that you know you will not read yourself.

Tip #2 – Headings 

Start by breaking up your web writing with catchy headings.  Your writing is your calling card; your kick-…(fill in the blanks) elevator pitch!  When well done, it makes your personal, professional or corporate brand catch the eyes of your audience.  You get noticed!

For example, when you hit a wall, you either try to climb it or walk away because it appears too high. But when you come to a wall with spaces through which you can fit, you  easily cross over to the other side to discover what lies ahead.  The same applies to web writing.  Walls of text make you lose readers!

Make content more readable by using headingsrevising content with with headingscranes2

 

 

 

 

 

 

These two images are from Redish’s book entitled: Letting go of the Words  (pg 65-70). In the book, she recommends re-writing the content to the left as it appears on the right. Here’s what I think.

Critique (Content to the left)

The content on the left is probably on its way to content purgatory, because:

  • The paragraph lacks readability.
  • The black text on the army green background makes reading almost painful.
  • The centred text is not at all encouraged in web writing. The jagged start and end points make reading it, difficult. When web readers meet a wall of text, they often just decide to leave the page
  • There are no headings to break up the monotony of the long paragraph
  • There is no picture to speak—a single word, far more—a thousand words
  • There is little or no white space to aid readability and design

Summary

As a web writer, well-written and catchy headings help you organize your thoughts, give readers the perfect “bite” or mouthful and help readers find what they are looking for…faster.

Next Post: What’s the word on grammar rules?  In fact, are there such rules?  To what extent should we follow them?  Find out in my next post. Happy Reading!

Grammar Rules? Maybe!

Grammar Rules
Image courtesy of [digitalart] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Tip #4 – Be Grammatically Correct (but break the rules…sometimes)

Let’s face it…English grammar rules could be daunting at times because there are just so many of them!

Most people will do some form of web writing in their lifetime, including you.  So why not aspire to write well?  When you decide to pen your next web writing project, avoid these three basic English grammar “don’ts:”

#1: Run-on Sentences. Not at all cool.  Avoid them!

#2: Mistakes in Apostrophe Uses.  They don’t belong.  Drop them! 

#3: Subject/Verb Agreement. They don’t always agree.  Make them!

Yes, we all know these rules.  But, there are countless websites, blogs and other online marketing content lost in cyberspace.  A major problem is that web designers are not web writers.  So designers often spend a lot of time designing a website, for example, and the content writing becomes an afterthought. I am sure you have seen attractive websites with poorly written content. No…I am not suggesting learning all of the rules, because (get this) you can break them!  Oh yeah.

Break the Rules

Sometime in our early academic life, we learned not start sentences with and, but and because. But, well-positioned, could help improve the flow and conversational tone of your web writing. And, that’s one of the key objectives when writing for the web; creating conversations with which your web readers can engage. Because, you want your web readers to get your point, quickly.

Who said you cannot write using f-words (fragments), or end sentences with p-words (prepositions)?  In web-writing you surely can.  Especially if their use adds clarity to your writing.  Lastly, contrary to what we have learnt in the past, a paragraph can be one sentence only.

Seriously.

Editing

Newsflash – Do not rely solely on your word processor for editing your web writing!  I remember doing a presentation to a client a few moons ago.  When I got to one of the slides that I had read, re-read, proofread, edited… again and again, I noticed the word pubic instead of public. (I died a million deaths that day.  What resurrected me? We won the account…and I kept my job!)

Summary

Whether you decide to break grammar rules or not, as Handley states in her book Everybody Writes, “…be rabid about readability.”  And readability comes when web readers can easily consume and understand your work because of its excellent grammar and syntax.

Next Post: Lists and tables make a web reader’s life as easy as 1-2-3! Find out how in my next post. Happy Reading!

 

Define Your Audience

Defining your audience, the focus of this blog post, should set the appropriate tone for your next web writing project.  In this context, we are all writing for the Web.  So, be encouraged to write compelling stories and have awesome conversations with your intended audience.  As digital communicators, its key for all of us!

Tip#1- Define Your Audience

Before you start writing for the web, ask yourself, “Who is my audience.”  “For whom am I preparing this content?”  “Who will read what I am writing?”  Knowing your audience is paramount to refining your writing. Should your tone be conversational? Are you writing for a corporate audience?  Maybe you should write in teenager-ism?  No matter how excited you are to tell your story, be sure to tell it in the right context, that is, to the right audience that will get you the response that you want. In other words, defining your audience is a primary step to ensuring that you are effectively communicating with them.

One day, amidst tears, my five-year old daughter said to me:

“Mummy, I hear what you said, but I cannot understand all those big words you are using.” (Imagine my horror?) 

It’s the same when writing for the web. If you don’t tailor your message to your audience, it and they will be lost.  In other words, ensure the meal that you prepare soothes your guest`s palate. In fact, if defining your audience was a math equation, it would read: Targeted Audience + Rich Content = Awesome Conversations; a web writer’s dream!

Web readers are busy and only read content that they find interesting and that speaks to them.  After all, who doesn’t like having inspired conversations where you feel that the other person “gets” you? Once you know your audience or web visitors, engage them with great conversations, then sit back and watch them return like metal to magnet.

Wait…what? You still don’t know your audience? Then you run the very high risk of not reaching them at all or momentarily grabbing their attention but quickly losing them, along with your anticipated return on investment in your website, blog or other Web medium.

Next post: Creating Eye-Catching Headings.  Happy Reading!

Out of the Gates…It’s On!

Writer at work

If a journey begins with the first step, then here’s to me stepping on out!  Armed with ten beautifully manicured fingers, my keyboard, a wonderful smile and lots of confidence that I will do this…I’m ready.

There are many things that we can do in life, but there are only a few things that we can do really well.  For me, I love writing.  Whether I am writing a book (yes, there is a written manuscript that’s just waiting to break loose from its restraints) magazines, press releases, scripts, marketing content, web content…I love writing.

Tanyers Web Writing” was born out of my love for reading clear, concise writing on the web. I have long accepted the fact that the Internet has created an awesome, dynamic way to communicate.  As a marketer, the Internet continuously presents countless opportunities for targeted communications about our brands. To join the ocean of ongoing conversations, clearly navigate your way and drop anchor where you can get the best possible returns on your investment.  Or, flail around and eventually sink. Saying “Stop the world and let me off,” as American Waylon Jennings sang in the 60s and Bahamian Ezra Hepburn echoed in the 70s, is not an option.

My plan is to keep each blog post light, while presenting simple steps, tips and tricks on how to write for the Web, particularly websites. I am already having fun writing it, and I want you to have fun reading it too.  I plan to post new content about twice a week so stay with me.  When you read it, feel free to share your thoughts or drop me a line on topics of interest to you, and I just might choose it from all the other suggestions that I receive.

Join me along this journey.  I’m clicking my heels and gearing to go…and I am out of the gates…it’s on!