Real dialogue, the kind we experience in our day to day lives, is not usually presented in a way that translates well into writing.
You already knew that. In our daily lives, we’ll use “uh” and “umm” and slang terms, and a lot of times we won’t even know what we’re talking about. Or maybe that’s just me.
A conversational tone is instead defined as writing in a way that would appear to be conversational and personable, but that is actually planned and structured in the same fashion as more formal writing. Like a well rehearsed monologue.
It’s all about the style.
Why would you want to use a conversational tone, though? Because it will improve readability and form a connection with your readers. The writing will ring true, and you won’t sound like a robot.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Use the vocabulary you already have. Put that thesaurus down. Put it down. The first word you choose to describe something is usually the best, and almost always the most natural.
2. Forget about English class. In school, you probably learned that you shouldn’t use And or But or So at the beginning of a sentence. These are called coordinating conjunctions. And contractions were almost certainly out of the question. Forget most of that.
It’s perfectly fine, in moderation, to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. It’s also okay to use contractions and, if it’s appropriate to the medium, write in the first person.
3. Write quickly. Your natural voice will come through if you give it a chance, and that means getting your words onto paper in their most unstable and volatile form. You can revise later. When you’re first beginning to write, let the words flow naturally.
4. Revise with rhythm. A conversational tone has rhythm. This isn’t something you can necessarily read about and suddenly understand, but trust the natural rhythm of your sentences. Think about the way you put words together when you speak. Your rough draft probably has all the rhythm it will need, since it’s the most natural state of your writing. Don’t destroy it by over-editing.
5. Read aloud. The best way to ensure that your writing has a clear and natural conversational tone is to read it out loud. Most of the time, it’s that simple.
Image credit: Wonderlane