7 steps to keep your writing materials out of the trash

Whether it’s a marketing brochure or an internal email, your message won’t land with your audience if it’s stuffy or laden with jargon. Here’s how to lighten up the tone of your writing.

All too often, promotional leaflets and brochures end up in the trash and company emails get ignored or deleted.

Why?

On the whole, marketing messages are bland, generic and devoid of character. They make us cringe, lack any personality or charm and could, quite frankly, have been written by robots trained to string words together in the most soul-destroying way possible.

This is a great shame, however, because readers enjoy copy that’s engaging and uplifting and connects with them on a one-to-one level. They want to feel valued, appreciated and respected while holding onto the belief that you’re talking with no other customer but them.

That’s where conversational writing skills come into play.

Writing in a conversational manner doesn’t simply involve recording yourself and typing what you said. After all, people rarely speak proper English when they talk. Most conversations are littered with grammatical mistakes, nonsensical or vague words, and unfinished sentences. The key to conversational text is editing it so it no longer sounds like writing.

Confused? Check out the following tips:

1. Don’t make it sound like you’re writing to everyone.

As a company representative, you probably don’t have time to write a personal email to every single client. Mass email blasts are common, but it’s important that you not sound like you’re addressing a crowd , as that’s what makes most marketing messages sound monotonous and unoriginal.

How can you nail that conversational tone?

Imagine you’re speaking to your favorite subscriber rather than to 100,000 faceless individuals on your email list. Speak to them casually, yet professionally, and in an upbeat manner. For instance, rather than saying: “Thank you to those of you who’ve donated to our charity,” you might say: “Donated to our charity already? Thanks so much.”

RELATED: Free download: 10 punctuation essentials

2. Make sure your marketing materials are easy to read.

Highly sophisticated sentences packed with industry-related jargon is far from conversational. Complicated, unfamiliar words can make intimidate people, so make sure your marketing materials are straightforward and easy to read. Leave out anything that can be found only in a degree-level book, and instead write to engage and help.

3. Forget self-importance; engage in a dialogue.

If a person talks on and on about themselves without letting you speak, how do you feel? Bored? Frustrated? Angry?

Well, remember this when writing marketing copy. Readers will quickly switch off if your literature is self-important gobbledygook, so try to have a two-way conversation—talking a little about “me” or “us” and a little about “you.” You can look out for self-centered sentences by searching for words such as “I” and “we,” but don’t feel that you have to delete them all. You still want to make your mark on the reader; it’s a fine balance.

4. Don’t hide your personality.

Before you begin writing any kind of marketing material, think carefully about your friends. This may sound odd, but ask yourself why you like them. What makes you want to hang out together time and time again? What sorts of conversations do you have?

Chances are, you discuss a wide range of topics and don’t stick to just one subject matter. This makes life interesting and allows for fun and unique conversations, so why not learn from this approach and make your content just as engaging?

You can do this by:

  • Using anecdotes to illustrate a point
  • Sharing stories and past mistakes with readers
  • Creating your own style of metaphors
  • Talking about wider business-related issues (perhaps in an email, or on your blog), not just about company-specific matters
  • Sharing interesting content such as infographics that will get people interested and talking

5. Ask your reader a host of questions

One of your main goals when writing content is to keep your reader interested. Though there are many stylistic things you can do to engage your audience such as spacing out copy, bolding text, using italics and making the most of bullet points, you should also ask your reader a host of questions.

Not only will doing so get them thinking about the subject at hand and what they really want or need, but it’ll actively involve them with the content, helping them to stay focused.

6. Avoid using long, complicated sentences.

Long sentences can be tiring to read, so write shorter sentences. This will make your content easier to digest.

Breaking copy down can be more difficult than you might think. All through school and college we were rewarded for expressing ourselves in an in-depth way using big, clever words. To write simply and for the reader can be a foreign concept, but it works.

7. Flout rules of grammar—but do so occasionally and with purpose.

Good grammar is important helping us to communicate in an accurate and respectable way. Still, certain grammar rules can gum up your message, so don’t be afraid to break them now and again for content clarity.

For example:

  • Use broken sentences to make your content more readable.
  • Start a sentence or two with “and,” “but” or “or” to keep your work from becoming monotonous.
  • Create a one-sentence paragraph to stress a particular point.
  • Use colloquial language here and there (don’t overdo it) to help make your writing more relaxed and conversational. (This is best done in a humorous manner.)

Conversational writing is not always easy. It’s somewhere between professionalism and casual chatter, but the above tips will help you find a more accessible tone.

A version of this post first appeared on Minerva Copywriting.

COMMENT

Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.