This post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke
You’ve probably heard that your blog posts need to be “conversational”.
You may also have been told why: to create a sense of connection with your reader, keep them engaged, and make your blog sound less like a lecture and more like a discussion.
That’s all true. But making your writing “conversational” can be tricky – especially if you come from a business or academic writing background.
If your blog posts tend to sound a little dry and stilted, here are three simple ways to change things.
#1: Talk Directly to Your Reader
Write your post as if you’re talking a specific reader. Picturing an actual person may help – someone you know in real life, or who comments on your blog. You could even imagine you’re emailing them, or writing a Facebook post or comment.
And use words like “I” and “you”, even though you were probably taught not to at school or work. When you’re blogging it’s totally fine to write from your personal experience, and to invite the reader to step into your post.
Here’s an example from Jim Stewart’s post 9 Tips for Recovering Your Google Rankings After a Site Hack. (I’ve highlighted each use of “you” and “your”.)
If your WordPress site has been hacked, fear not. By following these tips you can fortify your site and kick wannabe hackers to the kerb.
And provided you act quickly, your WordPress site’s SEO traffic—and even its reputation—can recover within 24 hours.
This is clear, direct writing that speaks to the reader’s problem. And it’s easy to read and engage with: it’s almost like having Jim on the phone, talking you through fixing things.
Note: As Jim does here, always try to use the singular “you” rather than the plural “you”. Yes, you hopefully have more than one reader. But each one will experience your blog posts individually. Avoid writing things like “some of you” unless you’re deliberately trying to create a sense of a group environment (perhaps in an ecourse).
#2: Use an Informal Writing Style
All writing exists somewhere on a spectrum from very formal to very informal. Here are some examples:
Very formal: Users are not permitted to distribute, modify, resell, or duplicate any of the materials contained herein.
Formal: Your refund guarantee applies for 30 calendar days from the date of purchase. To request a refund, complete the form below, ensuring you include your customer reference number.
Neutral: Once you’ve signed up for the newsletter list, you’ll get a confirmation email. Open it up, click the link, and you’ll be all set to get the weekly emails.
Informal: Hi Susan, could you send me the link to that ProBlogger thingy you mentioned earlier? Ta!
Very informal: C U 2morrow!!!
With your blogging, it’s generally good to aim for an informal (or at least a neutral) register, as if you were emailing a friend. This makes you seem warm and approachable.
Typically, you’ll be using:
- Contractions (e.g. “you’ll” for “you will”)
- Straightforward language (“get” rather than “receive” or “obtain”)
- Chatty phrases (“you’ll be all set”)
- Possibly slang, if it fits with your personal style (“thingy”, “ta!”)
- Short sentences and paragraphs
- Some “ungrammatical” features where appropriate (e.g. starting a sentence with “And”)
You might want to take a closer look at some of the blogs you read yourself. How do they create a sense of rapport through their language? How could you rewrite part of their post to make it more or less formal? What words or phrases would you change?
#3: Give the Reader Space to Respond
Conversations are two-way, and that means letting your readers have a say too. If you’ve decided to close comments on your blog, you may want to consider opening up a different avenue for readers to get involved, such as a Facebook page or group.
When you’re writing your post, don’t feel you need to have the last word on everything. You don’t have to tie up every loose end. It’s fine to say you’re still thinking about a particular subject, or that you’re still learning. This gives your readers the opportunity to chime in with their own expertise or experiences.
Often, you can simply ask readers to add to your post. For instance, if you’ve written “10 Great Ways to Have More Fun With Your Blogging”, ask readers to contribute their own ideas in the comments. Some people won’t feel confident about commenting unless explicitly invited to do so, ideally with a suggestion of what they could add (e.g. “What would you add to this list?” or “Have you tried any of these ideas?”)
On a slightly selfish note, if you’re not sure about the value of comments, remember it’s not just about your readers getting more out of your blog. Some of my best blog post ideas have come from a reader’s suggestion or question in a comment. And many other comments have prompted me to think in a more nuanced way about a particular topic.
There’s no one “right” way to blog, and some blogs will inevitably be more conversational than others. If you’d like to make your own posts a bit more conversational, though, look for opportunities to:
- Use “you” and “I”. Talk directly to your reader, and share your own experiences where appropriate.
- Make your language fairly informal. Don’t worry about everything being “correct” – just let your voice and style shine through.
- Open up the conversation by inviting readers to comment, or encouraging them to pop over to your Facebook page (or join your Facebook group).
Have you tried making your blog more conversational? Or is it something you’re just getting started with? Either way, leave a comment below to share your experiences and tips.