Got a degree? Forget everything you’ve learned about writing!
At the time I was a bit put out. Yet the rule held good throughout my radio career. It’s still useful now, when I’m shaping companies’ stories for their websites.
Don’t be wordy. Don’t be academic. If you want to get through to your listener, write as you speak.
Wireless Rule No.2: ‘Talk’ to your audience.
What was true for the radio then is true for the web now. As web surfers, we’re an impatient lot. I have to be direct with you if I want to grab your attention. A conversational approach will be more effective than a formal one.
I’ll say that again. It’s better to be conversational than formal. I get through to you more quickly. That’s important in a world where you can just wander off at the click of a mouse.
Expert backing for being conversational.
If you want to give your website a distinctive voice, I recommend a book by Janice (Ginny) Redish. It’s a modern classic and it’s called Letting Go of the Words.
Chapter 8 appeals to my broadcasting background because it reminds you that “good web writing is like a conversation”. So when you write, it helps if you can picture your audience as a particular individual; talk to them.
Being conversational isn’t ‘dumbing down’.
Ginny also points out that being informal is not the same as ‘dumbing down’. It’s about being clear and succinct:
It’s writing so that busy people can understand what you are saying the first time that they read it.
Tellingly, Ginny’s client list includes big names in the corporate world. Companies like Nokia, Marriott International and IBM. They’re proof that the writing style of the business world is moving away from the formal and academic.
You can be professional and approachable in your tone of voice. And you’re more likely to reach the people who matter most to your business.