Writing For The Web Engage Your Audience With A Conversational Style

Once prim and proper, the art of the written word has changed dramatically since the advent of the world wide web. Previously stuffy and formal, writing for the web has morphed into a very relaxed and “real” style that closely parallels the way we speak.
Forget the days of hard and fast rules like no dangling participles; never (ever!) ending a sentence in a preposition; or avoiding using the past perfect tense in a sentence.
Today’s writing needs to be authentic and real – you need to speak to your readers in writing the way you would talk to them face to face.
Why? Because you want to engage your readers and talk WITH them, not AT them.
Conversational writing draws your readers in and lets them see you as human. It helps you connect with your audience and create a sense of intimacy – something that formal writing of days past could never achieve.
So how do you keep it real and converse with your readers via the written word?
1. Write Like You Talk – The #1 rule for writing for the web is to “write like you talk.” This also helps you in your writing, because if you get stuck and are not sure what you want to write, just sit back for a moment and think what you want to say … and then just type what you’re thinking.
2. Use You-centric Language – Your audience is probably well past grade school, so treat them like it. By using you-centric language, you talk with them (not AT them.) You also covertly show them that you understand and get their needs, wants, and objectives, and can relate to them and their problems. You-centric language also puts you on the same level as equals (unlike third-person language that sets you above them and can cause readers to subconsciously bristle.)
3. Break the Rules – Gone are the days where you were forbidden from starting sentences with ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’, etc. Transitioning paragraphs by using conjunctions mirrors how we talk; it sounds natural to your reader just like a conversation.
4. Use Contractions – Again in the vein of “write like you talk”, you’ll want to use contractions for most of your writing because it is how people speak in the everyday world.
5. When in Doubt, Talk it Out – As you finalize the piece you’re writing, make sure to read it aloud. This will help you catch any stilted or overly formal parts that sound unnatural or overly authoritarian.
Mastering great writing for the web is a matter of following the KISS method – Keep it Short and Simple. Write like you talk, choose simple over complex, use smaller words instead of bigger, and always remembers your objective: To engage your reader and “speak” to them in your writing as if you’re talking with a friend.

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