Lesson Four: Style and Tone
While the structure of your essay affects the clarity, coherence, and impact of your content, writing style affects presentation in an even more fundamental way: it determines how engaged your reader is from sentence to sentence. Poor writing can make fascinating experiences a dull read, while strong writing can transform mundane details into an exciting tale.
The best advice we can give is to be simple and straightforward. Occasionally, an essay will sound choppy or unsophisticated because of too many short sentences, but usually the problem is the opposite scenario. Applicants think that flowery prose and large words will make them sound more intelligent, when in reality their expression ends up being muddled and tedious. A direct style is not only more efficient to read, but it's also more enjoyable because it allows for a steadily moving pace.
The tone you use should be conversational, not too formal or informal. The sentences you write should be sentences that you would actually say. This is not to suggest that you shouldn't spend time refining your writing carefully, but the ultimate goal should be a natural voice.
In this section of the course, we will cover the major weaknesses and mistakes most applicants are guilty of and show you how to turn them into strengths.
EssayEdge Extra: Achieving Genuine Style
In a sense, the advice covered in this section is remedial. We're trying to teach you to avoid the common mistakes of bad writing. The goal is to achieve a clean, readable, and enjoyable piece of writing. Very few writers in the entire applicant pool will have the kind of style that will make them stand out on the strength of writing alone.
Developing such a style requires time and investment, and some may argue that it can't be taught. If you want to undertake a more long-term investment in your writing aptitude, here are some tips:
- Immerse Yourself in Good Writing: Read publications like The New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. Even without conscious effort, your writing will improve because you will begin to think in more vivid language.
- Imitate Good Writers: Try a broad range of styles, from Faulkner to Hemingway. This will get you thinking about writing on a higher level and prepare you to forge your own voice as you begin to master the nuances of language.
- Keep a Journal: No matter what you choose to write about, your writing will improve simply because you're practicing the craft. Keep to a steady schedule.
- Become a Good Editor: Whether you're rewriting your own piece or someone else's, the process of editing will help you learn to pay attention to subtleties and keep an eye on the big picture.
- Have Your Work Critiqued by Professionals: Using a service such as EssayEdge's will not only help you improve the essay you submit, but will also teach you to recognize your general strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
See how EssayEdge experts from schools including Harvard, Yale and Princeton can help you get into graduate school! Review our services.
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Did your English teacher teach you how to write in conversational tone?
Have you ever spent hours writing a great piece of content. Then you expect to get loads of positive feedback, a spike in traffic coming to your blog and tons of social media engagement, only to find out that none of these happened? And the reason for this is because no one actually read your content?
I did, and it sucked.
You’re probably wondering why the content that you’ve put so much effort writing isn’t getting the attention it deserves even though it is genuinely top-notch.
Well, you might not believe this, but the answer might be – your English teacher.
It may seem unfair to push the blame of your poor performing articles to your English teacher. The truth is, she is indeed the culprit.
Our English teachers have been preaching to us the importance of writing formally and how to write formally all the time. Now that we (most of us) are out of school, how many times are we required to write formally?
Because we’re so used to writing formally, we do so all the time even when we don’t have to. For bloggers, writing formally is a costly yet common mistake. We should be writing in a conversational tone instead.
What Is Conversational Writing?
Conversational style of writing breaks most of the grammatical rules. Conversational writing aims at the target audience and addresses them. Sentences may begin with pronouns and end with verbs. Sentences may even begin with “and,” “but,” and “yet.”
Simply put, writing in a conversational tone makes an article sounds like a conversation between two person rather than a textbook.
Why Should We Write In Conversational Tone?
The benefits of writing in conversational tone are:
- Creates connection. Writing in conversational tone will make you feel more genuine and human. Readers will feel like they know you in person and have your attention.
- Easy editing. There are fewer rules if you write conversationally, your readers will also be more tolerant of grammar mistakes.
- Fewer writers block. By writing conversationally, you can write like you normally talk, and that would make your ideas and words come out easier.
- More reader engagement. Your readers will feel a personal connection established between you and them. They will feel more involved, which encourages them to have a discussion with you.
- More fun. Fact: Most people prefer having a conversation on how to change a lightbulb than having to read up an instruction manual on how to change a lightbulb. Writing conversationally can turn your wall of text into an engaging conversation with the readers.
- Increase readership. All of the benefits above lead to this main benefit — increase readership.
How Do We Write In A Conversational Tone?
Most of us have no idea how to write in a conversational tone because our English teacher have never taught us how to. Even if we did, we get penalized for doing so. Since we’re not in school anymore, let’s check out a few blogging tips below on how to write in a conversational tone.
1. Use Simple, Easy to Understand Words
It could be tempting to use that new word you’ve just learned from your weekly reading. However, the internet isn’t the place for you to flaunt your wide vocabulary, your readers won’t be impressed, they’ll be frustrated instead.
“He commenced learning to utilize that difficult machine, subsequently, his proficiencies ameliorate.”
What!? Here’s a better version:
“He started learning to use that difficult machine, then, his skills improved.”
Sometimes you might need to use the complex words to communicate a more precise meaning, sometimes you just can’t avoid them due to the subject matter. It’s alright to use them under such circumstances. As a general rule, try to use simpler words as the basis of your writing and only use complex words when they’re absolutely necessary.
2. Use “You” and “I”
Contrary to formal writing, conversational writing requires you to make it personal. By using words like “you” and “I”, you are making the reader feel like you’re writing to them personally and that increases readership and engagement.
“Social media marketers should definitely try out using Instagram to connect with their audience.”
A more conversational tone of writing will be:
“If you are a social media marketer, you should definitely try out using Instagram to connect with your audience.”
3. Tell Stories
Human beings are naturally compelled by stories. Stories appeal to personal emotions and engages sensory triggers. Turn your facts and figures into stories and you’ll notice a significant improvement in your time on site.
“Our company’s mission is to provide everyone in the world with healthy and nutritional fruit based breakfast that contains low-fat and low-sugar.”
“Our company’s mission is to bring the sweet tang of blueberries and the comforting warmth of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables throughout the entire world”
Learn more about storytelling and how to use it to increase readership here.
4. Keep it Short
The length of your sentences and words will affect how difficult it is to read your article. Generally, you should:
- Keep your sentences short. Break long sentences into several short ones. Long sentences will reduce readability.
- Use words with fewer syllables. Words with more syllables reduce readability.
“Jack made Susan a beautiful handmade card and gave it to her for her birthday as Jack tries to win her heart because he is in love with her.”
This sentence is obviously too long and might need to be read a few times to be fully understood. Breaking it up will improve its readability.
“Jack is in love with Susan. He made her a beautiful handmade card for her birthday. Jack is trying to win her heart.”
Here’s a great tool that you can use to measure the readability of your articles.
5. Break the Rules
Remember all those grammatical rules your English teacher taught you? Well, most of them aren’t applicable to conversational writing. For example, in conversational writing:
- You can end a sentence with a preposition.
- You can start a sentence with And/But.
- You can use contractions. In fact, you should use them often.
- You don’t need to write complete sentences.
However, you should be careful when breaking these grammatical rules as you do not want to come off sounding like an illiterate.
“How to tell which keywords my website is ranking on search engines?”
“How to tell which keywords my website is ranking for?”
Although the first one might be grammatically correct, people prefer reading the second one as it is more conversational.
6. Use Active Voice Instead of Passive Voice
When writing in conversational tone, use active verbs and prevent using passive verbs. Passive verb construction is a clear sign of over formalized language. Take out the extra words and put your subjects back up front.
“The door was opened by Jolin.”
Passive verbs discourage engagement. Use active verbs instead:
“Jolin opened the door”
7. Do Not Ramble
Similar to keep it short, the idea here is to convey your message in as few words as possible. If you can convey your message in three sentences, don’t do it in five.
On the internet, every word counts. If you have too many words that mean nothing, your readers will eventually tune out. Always be concise and straight to the point when conveying a message.
“Based on our recent survey, 75% of marketers find SEOPressor to be a useful SEO WordPress plugin. Which means, only 1 in 4 person doesn’t think SEOPressor to be helping their SEO efforts.”
When you can just say:
“Statistically, 3 quarter of marketers love using SEOPressor.”
8. Ask Questions
You know what makes your content sound really conversational? Questions!
When you ask questions, you are actually engaging the readers directly by giving them something to think about actively. However, your intention isn’t really for your readers to figure things out on their own. So it’s more effective if you follow-up your question with an answer immediately so that your reader won’t have time to think of the wrong answer.
Nike utilized questions in their posters to great effect.
“Do you know where to get the Biggest, Loudest and Cheapest speakers in town? Here in Stark’s Audiohouse of course!”
9. Use Examples, Similes and Metaphors
Using examples and metaphors can effectively make complex ideas simple and easy to understand. For example, I’ve included an example for every point that I suggested in this post to show how you can apply those steps. Examples, similes, and metaphors don’t just make you sound more conversational, they can also strengthen your message.
“She’s really lovely.”
As compared to
“She’s really lovely, like a daisy covered in morning dew surrounded by fluttering butterflies.”
10. Write to Your Target Audience
Remember that you are only writing to your target audience, not everyone. If you write as though you are writing to everyone, chances are, your content would sound just like everyone’s else and no one will truly connect with you.
To do so, you must first identify your target audiences. When identifying, the more specific you are, the better.
As always, I hope that these blogging tips on writing conversationally helps you with increasing the readership of your blog and gets the attention it deserves.
Updated: 13 March 2018