The Case for Conversational Writing
Plausible deniability. It would be a great name for a comic book villain.
It’s also an elegant way to describe ducking nefarious knowledge (although Ducking Nefarious Knowledge could be Plausible Deniability’s evil mentor — imagine a large D on a shield hanging behind his desk).
There’s a place for five-dollar words. Academia is one place that requires them. I don’t like unnecessary jargon and fluffed-up vocabulary, but I won’t argue with writing for your audience, especially when they’re on the committee that holds your future in its hands (I recall a friend who successfully completed his PhD, in spite of being so burned out mid-thesis he sounded like he’d consider finishing the thing with a rousing game of Pictionary).
Let’s not bother discussing the way politicians use many large words to say very little.
But it is worth talking about how you might use lots of syllables to look smarter. Or feel smarter.
It’s not necessary.
Here’s an example from The Plain English Campaign: High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.
Lots of impressive words there. Now let’s get to the point: Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.
When you’re telling your brand story, you don’t need to write to impress anyone. That’s not the point.
The point is connection — to allow your readers to see themselves working with you or buying from you. You want them to know you’ll deliver what you promise, and that you make quality work. You do that best when you use your own voice.
Aim for clarity and sincerity. Unless your audience demands academic language, it’s better to keep your writing conversational. You can still be elegant while you do it.
“Conversational” doesn’t mean “unprofessional”. I’ve had that discussion, with someone who firmly believed professional writing meant being stiff and formal. Contractions (as in, don’t, can’t, we’re, you’re) were not okay, ever.
Once upon a time you could call that kind of writing robotic. But artificial intelligence has begun to sound so natural, so human, it’s increasingly difficult to tell the difference between software and a real person.
That’s not an accident. Developers understand the value of pleasant, professional, conversational communication, in writing as well as in voice contact. It’s smart customer service.
To be fair, sometimes you just do not want that apostrophe. But it’s not a rule. Saying “can’t” instead of “cannot” does not undermine your status as a professional. On the contrary — writing with ease, clarity, and personality conveys confidence and inspires trust.
Your writing is there when you can’t be. When you write in a natural voice, your audience can “hear” you in their heads as they read. They feel invited into your business, and if they pick up the phone or meet you in person, there’s no jarring difference in how you communicate.
If you’re not sure how your writing sounds, read it aloud.
If you try too hard, it might seem like you’re talking down to your customers, which could alienate them. Or bore them (“Stop throwing around the fancy vocabulary and get to the point!”).
Clear, conversational writing infused with your personality is what your audience craves.