The beginning of my first Bible study sounded like a textbook. Dry and factual. That was the exact opposite of my intention. Although my devotions sounded more warm-hearted and inviting, I struggled to develop a conversational voice in my book.
I got some help. I looked at my favorite nonfiction books written by authors whose “voice” I loved. They spoke to the reader as to a friend. So then I started picturing the faces of my best friends and thought about how I would tell them my material if we were speaking face to face. With time and practice, my voice changed.
When we write to encourage others, we want to sound like a friend, like someone who cares. Instead of presenting cold facts or how-to steps in our books, we can sound like we’re coming alongside our readers, encouraging them in their walks with God. How do you like an author to sound when you’re needing help or encouragement? Write like that!
Here are some tips to develop a conversational voice in your writing. You may want to try one tip or all of them. Remember that learning how to write conversationally is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t get frustrated. The time you take to write this way is worth every minute because it will make your writing more reader friendly.
To develop a conversational voice:
- Picture the faces of your friends as you write.
We write to real people with real needs and concerns, not to some ethereal audience. Picture your best friends sitting with you in a coffee shop, and start writing. What would you tell them about your topic? Write freely and then read the paragraphs. Did you sound conversational? If you need to add more details or supporting material, go back and insert that. Remember to mix long and short sentences like you use when you talk to someone. Even try reading what you wrote aloud to see if it sounds like a one-sided conversation.
- Don’t write “stiff”—use your personality.
There is only one you. Let your personality shine. You will add warmth and life to your writing when you phrase things like you would say in everyday life. Writers aren’t supposed to sound stodgy or stuffy. Far from it. Readers are more likely to keep buying your books and reading your blog posts if they see personality and heart in your writing.
- Tape record yourself talking about your topic.
If you have a hard time sounding conversational on paper, record yourself talking about your subject. Don’t be shy—go ahead, try it! If you are a natural speaker, tap into that ability and use it to enhance your writing. Transcribe the tape, and see if there is a difference between your previous writing and the transcribed version. If so, keep using the recorder as long as you need to. (It’s not cheating.)
- Read other people’s books and blogs, and look for the types of words they use.
Read some other people’s writing and notice whether they wax eloquent or cut to the chase. Do they use everyday language for the most part and insert a “big word” here or there? Do they use “poetic” language in just the right spots? Pick your moments when you want to sound dramatic or poetic. Inspire your readers, but try to keep your language as down-to-earth as possible.
- Write from a passionate heart.
Here’s an exercise suggested by Dee Dee Parker in her blog post, How Passion Influences Your Voice. Set aside the “technical” for a minute, and try writing a short piece about your topic. Let the writing flow from the passion you have about the subject. Let your emotions immerge in what you write. Did your voice change? When you write from the heart, you may see that some of the “academic” falls away. Let your passion come through in your writing. Only you can write about something with your unique passion.
- Work with a friend to develop a conversational voice.
Find a writing friend who is willing to help you. Ask your friend to read five short pieces of your writing and give you feedback about your voice. Write something short like a devotion or article, and send it to them. Adjust how you write based on your friend’s feedback. If they are willing to read more, write one more short piece, and ask them to compare the new writing to the old and see if your writing now sounds more conversational.
As you develop your writing voice, let your personality and your love for your topic shine. Practice and keep practicing. Try one of these tips and tell me if it helps. Writing with a conversational voice takes some work, but the benefits will bless your readers every time.