Has anyone ever told you that you write like you talk? That’s a great thing to hear if they did. Indeed, it’s a compliment, because good writing carries with it a conversational, natural-sounding style, whereas poor writing is stilted and sounds forced. Stilted writing bores readers, whereas conversational writing pleases them, thus encouraging them to keep reading.
What is stilted writing?
1. Stilted writing sounds formal. It uses formal words instead of the everyday words most people use.
2. Stilted writing doesn’t use contractions.
a. Stilted sentence: “I am sorry I was late.”
b. More natural sentence: “I’m sorry I was late.”
3. Read your prose aloud. Better yet, read it into a voice recorder, then play back what you’ve read. Does it sound like natural conversation? If so, great! If not, more work needs to be done.
As writers, then, let’s aim for a conversational style. It should sound like we’re talking to readers from an easy chair, telling them a story. To achieve this requires lots of work and lots of practice. Here are a few tips that’ll help.
1. Use contractions. Why? Because people use contractions in their everyday speech.
2. Vary sentence lengths but be concise. Good writing makes every word count toward the reader’s understanding of a sentence no matter what the sentence’s length. If a word or phrase doesn’t contribute toward understanding a sentence’s meaning, if it’s just hanging out there serving no purpose, get rid of it.
3. Vary our sentence structures. Since sentence structure is beyond the scope of this post, I recommend finding and studying a good grammar book that discusses it.
Till next time, friends, keep on writing!