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  • How to write in a conversational tone

    Woman at table working on her writing

    How to write in a conversational tone

    ✼ By Sharon Lapkin

    With so much content flooding the internet, it can be difficult to stand out. The last thing you want is for the lovely blog post you put your heart and soul into to end up on the 1,567th page in a Google search.

    Not only that, but as writers, we want to feel good about creating original and engaging content.

    One of the biggest problems with most business content out there is that it sounds like it was written by a robot.

    Content that looks like it’s been churned out by a machine over and over again is a huge turn off to readers.

    Woman at desk yearning for a conversational tone of writing

    Achieving the human touch

    Do you know what you have as a writer? It’s the human touch, and that’s what people want to read!

    Using a conversational tone in your writing is a great way to have a creative edge over your competitors. It allows you to build an authentic connection with your readers because they feel like they’re reading something you’ve written directly to them.

    Research shows that 31% of advertisements are emotion-based, and Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman found through his research that 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

    Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be because this research isn’t new. Scientists have been telling us for years that emotions play an important role in decision-making. Despite this, we continue to write stiff formal business content. White papers, annual reports and blog posts that put readers to sleep.

    People want to read genuine content that engages them on multiple levels. 

    So, if you’re looking to improve your content writing game and take your readers on a journey, it’s time to perfect your conversational tone.

    Let’s go over what tone of voice is and how to use it.

    What is tone of voice?

    To start, we need to understand what tone of voice is when it comes to writing. According to Merriam-Webster, the formal definition for tone of voice is ‘the way a person is speaking to someone’.

    Pretty simple definition, right? Well, not exactly. While this definition is helpful, tone of voice is a different beast when it comes to writing. When it comes to marketing or business writing, it’s the way you express to your audience how you feel about your brand and how they should feel. It’s how you establish a connection and the tone you choose is going to stick with your brand.

    Essentially, tone of voice is the theme you’ve chosen for the content you’re writing. Choosing the appropriate tone for your audience will help you build a strong relationship with them. It will also show them there is a living, breathing human behind the writing, which is what the people want to see!

    Tone of voice examples

    Now that we know what tone of voice is, let’s look at some examples. We’re going to focus on a conversational tone, but before we dive in a crash course on the various types of tone can help you decide which is right for you.

    Infographic of woman considering different tones of voice in writing

    Formal tone

    A formal tone is what you’ll find in a research paper or scholarly article. It’s authoritative, but can come across as complex and dry.

    Think about your textbooks in school. This tone emphasises facts and avoids any contractions, making it very wordy.

    When it comes to marketing, it’s wise to avoid a formal tone as people tend to scroll right past it looking for something more palatable.

    Here are examples of formal tone phrases:

    ●  According to the data, a formal tone is not the best option for writing marketing     content.  

    ●  They will not be attending the concert this evening.

    Informal tone

    As you may have guessed, an informal tone is going to be the exact opposite of a formal tone. When you’re writing in this tone, it should be expressive and sound like you’re talking to a friend. You can use contractions and short sentences, instead of long drawn-out factual paragraphs. It’s short, sweet and to the point. Here are two examples of informal tone:

    ●  Hi! How are you?

    ●  We’ve got A LOT of work to do!

    We’ve been taught throughout our education that this type of writing is a no-no, but in marketing and business writing, it can be your best friend.

    Optimistic tone

    You can combine an optimistic tone with formal or informal writing to convey a positive outlook. In marketing, you are typically looking for positivity. It’s not often you want gloom and doom surrounding your brand! When you’re trying to be optimistic try to use phrases such as:

    ●  We’re hopeful for the future of our business!

    ●  Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

    Assertive tone

    Using an assertive tone conveys confidence and authority without being aggressive. It’s best used when you’re trying to persuade your customers to invest in your brand. No funny business here! Some examples of an assertive tone are:

    ●  You don’t want to miss this stellar offer, buy now to save!

    ●  Be the success you were meant to be.

    Conversational tone

    Now, to go over what we all came here for. A conversational tone is an incredible skill in writing. It’s not writing how you speak, but writing in a way that makes your readers feel as if the content is personalised for them.

    Don’t be afraid to have fun with it, and break out of the mould of traditional writing. It’s a relaxed and direct way of writing that will help to build your brand.

    Man at desk writing in a conversational tone

    Before we show you the ropes, here are some examples:

    ●  Hey, how’s it going?

    ●  We have LOTS of new products for you!

    Benefits of using a conversational tone

    When you write in a formal tone, it can sound stuffy and uninviting to your readers.

    Nobody wants to buy products or services from the formally dressed person with the corner office anymore. They want realness and to know they’re supporting a real person.

    It also allows you to be creative and establish your brand. Writing conversationally will make your message stronger and more memorable. It will also:

    ●  help you connect with your audience

    ●  show your personality

    ●  humanise your brand

    ●  give your audience a human character to relate to.

    How many times have you been shopping for something online, and you resonate with a brand because you can put a face and/or name to the product?

    This is exactly what a conversational tone will do for you.

    Customers and clients want to feel like they’re supporting a friend or family member when they engage with content, and that could be you!

    Here are some of the big benefits to using a conversational tone.

    You'll earn their trust

    Did you know there is a psychology behind copywriting? Everything is intentional! The easier something is to read, the more likely they are to believe it. This happens totally subconsciously, so the reader doesn’t realise it’s happening.

    Think about a time you’ve been researching something online and an article was filled with industry-specific jargon or big long words. Did you retain any of the information or continue reading the article? Probably not.

    It's inclusive

    A crucial element of conversational tone is writing in simple language. We don’t mean ‘dumbing it down’, but writing in simple words you’d use while going out for coffee. Nobody wants to be trying to decode a university thesis when they’re just trying to buy a pair of shoes online. When you write in a complex manner, it can make people who don’t understand the words feel alienated.

    A conversational tone helps with SEO

    This is a big one.

    A conversational tone is going to use words and phrases that your audience uses. When it comes to SEO, these are keywords.

    The more your content uses popular keywords among your audience, the more likely it is that your content will show up in search results.

    Tips for writing in conversational tone

    Alright, now we know how important using a conversational tone is, so it’s time to get started! We have some tips for you that should pave the way to you being a conversational tone expert before you know it.

    Conversational tone infographic

    Use active voice

    When you’re writing in a conversational tone, using active voice is key. Active voice is when the subject is performing the action. You should be able to clearly identify the subject in the sentence. Using passive voice can make your content sound vague and confusing when you want to sound confident in your product! Here is a simple example of active vs. passive voice:

    Active voice – The cat is eating its food.

    Passive voice – The food was eaten by the cat.

    Now, this is a very simple example, but you get the idea. When you’re writing, you can take this and make it more complex. If you have a sentence that’s written in passive voice, you can always change it to active voice.

    Understanding the difference will help you identify passive voice and save you time in the long run.

    Use sensory language

    Using sensory language is a crucial part of writing in a conversational tone. Simply put, sensory language uses the five senses to enhance your writing and make it more engaging. Combine this with a conversational tone and you’ve got the perfect recipe for writing that will draw your readers in!

    The types of sensory words you might use to help achieve a conversational tone might include freckled (sight), abrasive (touch), splash (hearing), citrus (smell) or tangy (taste).

    We’re big believers in the use of sensory language to create the right conversational tone for your business. We even wrote a comprehensive blog post about it.

    Check it out here!

    Utilise short and choppy sentences

    A well-thought-out long sentence can be a beautiful thing in writing. But! When we’re writing conversationally, short and simple ones win the race. You don’t want your readers getting bored while you envision yourself as the next great novelist. They’re probably reading your content on their phone trying to get a quick answer, so help them out!

    Contractions and interactions are your BFF

    You were probably taught to avoid contractions, but embrace them in a conversational tone. Try to use contractions such as you’ll, don’t and aren’t. Contractions also spice up your writing. Write Yay! Woohoo, or oh no! and help your readers feel at ease.

    Address your reader

    Hey, you! Yeah, I’m talking to you! Let your reader know you are acknowledging their existence by addressing them directly. Ask them questions and write as if it’s a personal letter. This draws people in and will keep them reading.

    Want to know more about conversational tone? Watch this video.

    Source: Dr Claire Lynch, 20 June 2019. The factors that affect tone of voice. YouTube.

    Final thoughts

    And there you have it. You’re going to be a pro at conversational tone in no time. It’s an invaluable skill to have a as a writer, and your readers are surely going to appreciate it.

    Here’s more if you’d like to keep reading. To find out more about conversational writing, wander over to Our complete guide to conversational writing.

    Want to put some punch into your writing? Check out How to make your writing stronger.

    If you’re after some good hints on writing blog posts, you might enjoy How to write a smashing blog post.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • The power of sensory language in business writing

    The power of sensory language in business writing

    ✻ by sharon lapkin

    Is there really a place for sensory language in business writing? The answer is a super-spicy, king-size yes and here are seven reasons you should be using it. 


    Sensory language provides vivid detailed imagery.


    Research shows that the brain processes sensory language faster.


    Readers can touch, feel, taste, hear and smell your words.


    It injects personality and animation into your writing.


    Your writing is stronger and more powerful.


    Sensory language helps you captivate your audience.


    It taps into readers’ emotions and engages them on multiple levels.

    What is sensory language?

    Sensory language uses the five senses – touch, sight, sound, smell and taste – to describe objects and experiences. The information collected by your five senses helps your nervous system interpret what’s happening around you.

    Sensory words are usually descriptive (adjectives) and they’re related to emotions and feelings. 

    When you read sensory words, you feel as if you’re in the scenario being described by the writer. Walking through fresh green grass, for example, might evoke feelings of positivity and emotions such as joy and happiness. Whereas, sitting alone in an empty railway station evokes feelings of negativity and emotions like sadness.

    On the other hand, when you read about ‘walking through the grass’ or ‘sitting in a railway station,’ the bland language doesn’t evoke any feelings or emotions. It’s lifeless.

    Why does fresh language engage you more? How come you feel as if you’ve been transported into the photo on the right when you read about walking through fresh green grass? Let me explain.

    Walking through the grass and thinking of sensory language to describe it.

    What your brain does when you read sensory language

    When you read sensory words and phrases your brain processes them differently to non-sensory words. Your nervous system sends messages to your brain, which creates mental images that engage you on multiple emotional levels.

    Let’s say you read a book that’s so engaging you can’t put it down, or a magazine article that makes you angry. Chances are these stories are sprinkled with sensory language that’s making you respond emotionally.

    What we know for sure is that instead of processing the text for meaning, readers actually experience sensory language on one or more emotional levels.

    Infographic - 4 ways to improve your sensory writing

    How to use sensory language in business writing

    Including sensory language in business writing is a skill that comes with practice. Usually, it’s a combination of conversational or semiformal writing plus sensory writing that engages your readers.

    For example, on a web page where you’re writing about a new process, you might begin the discussion with a semiformal tone, then employ sensory language to describe a specific action. Perhaps you’ll even add in a sensory metaphor for variety and detail. Finally, when you summarise the topic you switch back to a semiformal business tone. Ultimately, you end up with a captivated audience because you brought the writing to life for your readers, instead of just ‘telling’ them about it.

    Narration, which uses commentary to convey a story or a concept, can be enriched by sensory language.

    You can transform a case study, a sequence of events, a descriptive narrative, as well as copywriting. Persuasive and informational writing are also more powerful when sensory words are included in the writing.

    Man up ladder writing sensory language on noticeboard

    Following is a brief list of sensory words to use in your business writing. For a more extensive list check out my Complete guide to conversational writing or click on the button below the list here for a complete PDF copy.

    Examples of sensory words














































    Get your complete list of sensory words here

    Start schmoozing with your clients today.

    The golden rule: show not tell

    ‘Show not tell,’ is a rule in fiction writing that new authors often struggle with. When you ‘tell’ your readers what’s happening, it doesn’t engage them. But when you ‘show’ them, the story comes to life.

    Anton Chekhov was inadvertently describing the show not tell rule when he wrote ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

    But let’s be realistic. While you can’t use the show not tell technique all the time in business writing, it’s great for adding depth and flair. And even better if you can achieve a sassy balance between showing and telling.

    To sum up, sensory language is an essential component of ‘showing’ and it makes your writing realistic, immediate and engaging. But you’ll still need to do some ‘telling’ to communicate key messages, instructional copy and more formal types of business writing.


    Tell: Sally was afraid to apply for the role when she saw the queue of applicants.

    Show: Sally trembled and put her job application back in her sachet when she saw the long queue of well-dressed people.

    Tell: With our new online platform, you can go straight to the page and type your comment.

    Show: We’ve created a bright and colourful online platform and we’d love to see you log in and leave a comment about our updated system.

    Watch this video to learn more about the show not tell technique

    Diane Callahan – Quotidian Writer (2020). How to show, not tell: The complete writing guide.

    Use strong verbs

    Are you wondering what a strong verb is? It’s when we use a stronger, more powerful, version of a basic verb. So instead of writing ‘run’, you’d write charge, race, dash or hurtle.

    Instead of ‘write’ you would record, jot, note, scrawl or take notes. And you’d write scrutinise, examine, peruse or scan instead of ‘read’.

    Once you get into the habit of using strong verbs, it’s easy – or, should I say, straightforward and breezy.

    Use a synonym finder to find powerful replacements for basic verbs. My favourite is WordHippo. It never fails to present me with interesting alternatives.


    Basic: He ran towards the door.

    Strong: He dashed towards the door.

    Basic: I’d wanted to visit the building since I read about it in a magazine.

    Strong: I’d longed to visit the building since I read about it in a magazine.

    Squash those adverbs

    Not all adverbs need to be squashed – only the pesky ones ending in ‘ly’. Okay, that’s most of them. The truth is adverbs such as beautifully, lightly, wearily and firmly weaken your writing.

    For example, look at the sentence ‘He lightly wiped his desk.’ Take the adverb out and your sentence is stronger and clearer.

    Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, detested adverbs. In fact, he used only 80 ly words per 10,000 words in his novels. Look at the masterful sentences below from The Old Man and the Sea.

    ‘Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.’

    EXAMPLES: ADVERBS for the scrapheap

    The CEO angrily described the problem.

    I’m certainly going to get one of those.

    The applicant was waiting anxiously by the door.

    Use metaphors to create vivid images

    Sensory language is perfect for writing metaphors and you may not notice how often you already do it.

    Hands typing on a laptop

    Having a heated debate and the sweet smell of success are both sensory metaphors. 

    Avoid metaphors that are so overused they’ve turned into cliches. The words were music to his ears, is a good example of a copypasta keyword. Instead, put your brain to work and create original metaphors. Your readers will thank you.


    She worked until every sentence felt like silk.

    Let’s write fresh tight copy that’s effortless to read.

    Talk about a super-spicy, sassy blog post!

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    When not to use sensory language in your writing

    Be careful where you write sensory language in serious, formal content. In these contexts, it can come across as out of tune and inappropriate. 

    Also make sure you use realistic sensory language. Using descriptive phrases that depict aliens or ancient history are probably a bad idea. Keep it familiar and inside your readers’ comfort zones, and analyse their likely reactions to what you’re writing, not your own feelings.

    Use sensory language in business writing when you want your readers to imagine a scene, description, image or action. It’s a sure way to captivate them. Take care to use positive words when you want to create a bright, happy scenario. You might be surprised by the negative emotions triggered by hurried words. 

    For example, nervous can also mean excited. Break can mean both unexpected good luck and taking a rest. Clean, light and clear are ambiguous words that can undo good writing.

    The takeaway? Keep an eye on the words you use and the emotional reactions they can generate.

    What the research says about sensory writing

    In 2019, Leonie Rocek wrote her thesis around the question: Are customers  influenced by sensory descriptions on food menus in restaurants?

    It turned out that customers are influenced in a positive way by sensory descriptions of the food on offer. But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions also play a significant role.

    Man in cafe reading sensory language in menu

    Customers enjoyed the whole restaurant experience more, and they expressed a desire to return in the future. In addition, they perceived the food to be more valuable and of a higher quality.

    What we can garner from this research is that readers trust information more when it engages their senses.

    the brain lights up when processing sensory words

    In another study, researchers found that sensory words are processed faster than non-sensory words. And a year later, more research published in the Brain and Language journal suggested that ‘conceptual processing is grounded in sensory systems.’ That a specific part of the brain lights up when processing sentences that include sensory metaphors.

    *A metaphor likens one thing to another, and describes it in a way that isn’t literally true. For example, ‘drowning in a sea of grief,’ and Shakespeare’s ‘All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.’ We discuss the power of metaphors  in sensory writing earlier in this post.

    The takeaway

    I hope you’ll include sensory language in your business writing. When it appears on the page at the right moment, it can impact your readers and clients in powerful ways.

    The most important takeaway here is to publish original and authentic writing. Nobody wants to read fluffernutter sentences they’ve read a zillion times before. But they do want to grab a coffee, snuggle up and read inspiring original content. And you’ve got that. Right?

     Publish exceptional content and it will win you new readers and clients all day long.

    One more thing ...

    Did you know that 2.5x more people use search engines than any other platform? 

     Unlike social media, your website is real estate you own. So if you’re ranking high enough in Google, you have tremendous opportunities to get in front of masses of people. 

    I built the Textshop brand with high-ranking blog posts, and you can do it too.

    Gold stars in a pattern

    Take this blog post, for example: Does my business need a blog? It’s ranking #6 – so not quite #1, but way up there on page one for the keyword I used. 

    How to write a smashing blog post is ranking #1. That’s right, the top of Google!

    I even had a featured snippet on this post for several months (prime Google real estate).

    Now for a blog post I loved writing: How to make your writing more powerful. It’s ranking #4 on Google – so I might update this post to give it a better chance of reaching #1. (Yes, you can update blog posts and not be penalised.)

    Clearly, you don’t need to be a big company to rank highly in Google.

    If I could get Textshop there, you can get your brand up there too!

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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