It doesn’t matter if you are formulating an email or producing a web page, white paper or brochure, you can’t go wrong if you write as you speak.
I’m not saying you can drop the F word into a corporate newsletter or burst into street slang to describe your latest service offering, you need to write how you would speak to your specific audience. After all it’s a rare occasion you would have cause to swear or break into rap when addressing a hall full of customers or employees.
Here are my arguments for the write as you speak philosophy.
Generally, when we talk, we get to the point quickly. If you’ve won a bunch of money you rush home and scream the news before you are halfway through the door, you don’t sit down, make a cuppa and go through your day minute by minute before finally arriving at the finale. Message comes first.
We adjust the way we speak, our tone, terminology and even pace to take into account what we know about who we are talking to – their age, language capabilities, existing knowledge and common vocabulary. Imagine repeating verbatim a discussion with quantum physicists on the impossibility of time travel with a 12-year-old Australian boy glued to Angry Birds.
Just as we choose the right language in every day speech, a conversation naturally falls into the right format for our purpose and available time. A colleague can receive a two-minute how-to on how to make your famous chocolate cake, while a fellow foodie will hardly be disappointed their lunch break has been taken up with your search for the perfect quantities of beetroot juice and bitter Madagascan chocolate.
It’s a winning combination: communication adapted to the specific needs and expectations of your audience. And we do it without thinking!
So next time you sit at a keyboard or pick up a writing implement, don’t fall into the trap of overcomplicated, long-winded and strictly formal communication. Sit back, relax and have a chat. Then write it down.