Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Making your writing conversational, part of Business Writing Fundamentals.
- [Voiceover] Effective writing expresses the message in a conversational tone Stiff, stilted legal terms, and old-fashioned business language can make our documents sound like contracts, rather than a simple request or routine announcement. So how can you achieve the conversational style? Often when communicating in business we forget that a human being is reading what we've written. A human being who reacts just like you and just like me. I could give you a multi-page list of words to use and words to avoid using.
But let's make learning how to achieve the conversational style simple. Ask yourself this one basic question. Think what you're about to write and then ask would I say this if I were speaking face to face with someone? For example, would you ever say to someone in the hallway as you handed that person a packet of material, enclosed please find the following items? What would you say as you handed the packet to your coworker? Probably, here are the materials you asked me to gather for you or the forms are in this packet.
Would you ever end a telephone conversation by saying hoping to hear from you in the near future, and hang up the receiver? More than likely you would say, I hope to have your answer by Friday or let me know by Friday if you need more information. Have you recently said "per" as in per your request? I certainly haven't, but an email I received within the last week began with per your request. Why not as you requested. This message is in regards to. Why not, this is regarding? Or this is about your request for a new price list.
So the simple rule is if you wouldn't say it, don't write it. On the other hand, writing can be, too informal or too slangish. Just because you might say something to someone does not mean you should write it that way. I might say to that coworker as I handed that packet, here's your stuff or here you go. But I would never write that. So not stiff and stilted, but also not too slangish. The majority of our day-to-day communication is informal and should use the conversational tone.
But, informal is not the same as slang. The email, the memo, the letter, the announcement on the bulletin board, whatever the channel, your goal is to sound conversational and provide your reader with writing that is natural and personalized. Readers will immediately detect mechnical sounding language. You want your reader to know that you see him or her as a person, rather than as a robot. Readers appreciate business writing that sounds human.
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