7 Tips for an Authentic and Productive
Writing Process

image of man with reflection

Does this sound familiar?

You’re sitting in front of your laptop, staring at a blank screen.

The deadline for the article you need to write is approaching, and you’re struggling to get started when you should be in the final editing stages.

As you sit there trying to put your expertise in writing, a strange insecurity creeps up your spine. You see yourself changing before your own eyes, transforming from a confident expert into a self-conscious amateur.

It’s your own Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde transformation experience.

I’ve been there.

I used to hate writing

Well, actually, it was more like loathing than hating.

Anytime I needed to write anything I’d procrastinate, pretending that avoiding the project would make it go away. Needless to say, the procrastination led to a flurry of rushed writing at the last minute to meet my deadlines, resulting in less than my best work.

But my real problem wasn’t the act of writing. It was fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear that what I wrote would sound stupid, fear that my writing wouldn’t make sense to the reader, etc.

My insecurities were turning me into a monster

So there I was, a guy with more than 15 years of experience, who has won some awards and is even a judge for three international design competitions, worried about sounding stupid.

It sounds ridiculous, but my fear of screwing up made writing a miserable experience for me.

I even used to try to compensate for my fears. I’d use stiff, formal sentences and large, important-sounding words to try to “prove” I knew what I was talking about. Unfortunately, all that did was make me sound like a pretentious jerk.

It was like I was changing from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde anytime I had to write something.

Then one sentence from my college professor changed everything

I had a job that offered tuition reimbursement benefits, so I decided to take some college classes. One of my classes was a composition class, and the professor gave me the best writing advice I’d ever heard.

“Write the way you talk.”

Wait. What?

It can’t be that easy! Seriously? What a liberating idea! That one piece of advice helped me break free of my fears and relaxed my writing style. No more procrastination. No more using large, unnecessary words to try and impress the reader. I could just relax, be myself, and write.

Now before you get the wrong impression, let me explain something: writing the way you talk does not give you permission to write poorly, or to publish content that sucks.

What it does is help break down the mental barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you from being a more engaging, and more productive writer.

Here’s how to use “write the way you talk” to squash your insecurities and avoid sounding like a pompous idiot:

1. Imagine yourself having a chat with a trusted friend

Good writing is like a conversation between the writer and the reader. So when you’re writing, think about how you would explain your topic to a close friend who was sitting next to you.

If you were having a conversation with that person, what words would you use? What would you talk about first? What examples would you give to help them understand your topic? What questions might they ask?

Approaching your writing this way will help you write copy that’s more informal and conversational in tone, that better engages your audience. As it happens, it’s also the best way to write sales copy.

2. Record yourself talking about your topic.

Not sure what you sound like in a conversation? Try recording yourself talking about your topic.

This is especially helpful for people who have clients they talk to on the phone regularly. The next time you’re explaining something to a client on the phone, record the call and listen to it later (Be sure to check the laws in your state first. Some states require you get the other party’s permission before you record). The easiest way to do this is with one of the many available plugins for Skype that do call recording.

3. Take a deep breath, relax, and just be yourself

By writing the way you talk, you can’t help injecting a little of your personality into what you write. After all, you’ll be writing in your own voice, using plain English everyone can understand, and a tone that makes you seem more human than textbook.

Combine that with a few relevant, well-placed personal stories and you have the makings of some irresistible content.

4. Use the same words that you do in your everyday life.

If you write the way you talk, you’ll be more inclined to use common, everyday words that you would normally use in conversation.

This prevents you from sounding like Captain Jack Sparrow using (in my best Johnny Depp impersonation) obtuse and generally confounding speech that makes your readers wish they were drinking rum.

So keep your writing simple and clear without artificially inflated language. A good rule of thumb is: if the average person would need a dictionary to know what your word means, then you need a different word.

5. Toss out the rule book and just start writing

If all the rules about grammar, writing styles, active versus passive voice, and punctuation are adding to your insecurities about writing, toss out the “rule book” for awhile and just write.

Focus on getting the main points of your idea down in your first draft, and don’t worry about anything else.

Once you’ve done that, you can go back and edit the heck out of what you wrote.

Do you notice any obvious errors? Is there anything that could be rearranged to bring more clarity to what you wrote? If so, now’s the time to fix it along with any grammatical, spelling, or other writing problems.

After you’ve made those corrections, leave the article to sit overnight and look at it again in the morning with fresh eyes. Is there anything you can do to make it even better?

6. Enlist the help of a close friend to keep you honest

Want to make sure that what you write actually sounds like you and not someone else?

Enlist the help of a close friend. Have them read what you write, and tell you if it sounds like someone else wrote it. This will help keep you true to yourself, and will force you to be authentic with your writing.

7. Read what you write out loud

One of the first editing tests I put my writing through is reading it out loud. Doing that makes awkward sentences and bad punctuation become obvious, because as you read, you’ll naturally “stumble” over the parts that need to be fixed.

So as you read your writing aloud, pay attention to those places that tend to trip you up — they may need some additional work.

The moral of the story

Get over the fears of messing up or sounding stupid. Just write the way you talk and you’ll be able to knock out your first draft in no time.

If you’re willing to do that, you’ll find that you’ll dread writing a lot less and be able to get more writing done because you’re working on it instead of fearing it.

I’ve been using these tips to guide my writing for several years now, and today I got the best evidence yet that they work.

I was talking with one of my clients on the phone about blogging, and as we were discussing the content for her blog she told me, “Whenever I read something you wrote, you always sound like such an expert. Like you really know what you’re talking about. ”

Need I say more?

So go ahead. Dive in. Who knows? You may even start to like writing.

About the Author: Logan Zanelli is a business stylist who helps entrepreneurs get found, stand out, and sell more. You can follow him on Twitter or get more from him on his blog.

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Comments

  1. Oh, just so wonderful. You have spoken out the mind of so many bloggers. The “writer’s block” rules the blogosphere and no one can escape it- even the A-listers. And you have given a comprehensive list of tips to get over that. Thanks for the tips.

    By the way, I like this tip the most: Use the same words that you do in your everyday life.

  2. I know someone who writes as he speaks, and the result is horrible.

    Grammatical rules are ignored: sentences have no ending, commas and apostrophes don’t count. He ends many sentences with prepositions and split infinities are the rule, not the exception.

    My question to you: How is this a good thing?

    I don’t object to the principles mentioned, but I believe the writing must be corrected for grammar.

    • Mark, Logan covered that.

    • Mark, that is indeed the danger with writing the way you talk which is why you need to be ruthless in your editing to catch those mistakes. But if you let yourself relax and just write the way you would talk about your topic for your first draft, it will help you get past the writer’s block so you can get your ideas down – and then edit from there.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Awesome advice. This is an issue I ran into quite a bit early on. The internet has this way of doing that to people once they know that their online communications entirely make up the persona that people perceive on the internet.

    So the tendency is to try really hard to impress those people on the interwebs by talking in big words and not being yourself. But nobody wants to see someone try and be someone else, it never turns out right.

  4. I agree. Write like you talk…but edit like someone’s charging you per word. Be yourself, but cut the flab afterward.

    I’d also advise turning off your monitor during the 1st pass. Just type. You know the words are there. You don’t need to see them, and your inner editor won’t have anything to gripe over until it’s his turn.

    • Yeah, if I write like I talk without restriction I blabber all sorts of nonsense. You definitely need to go back, keep the juice, and lose the fluff.

    • Great idea Shane. I’ll be trying that one.

    • That was a nice qualifier about editing like someone is charging per word.

      However I am not going to use your monitor suggestion. Don’t get me wrong-it’s great. But since I work on a laptop the cursor sometimes jumps to the middle of a sentence that I have written earlier-some kind of touchpad issue. Combine two three such jumps and a blanked out monitor and the whole thing is going to look like a messed up knot

  5. Great article! I had the same advice from one of my J-professors. I always brainstorm on a blank piece of paper before beginning my computer work. I start with writing down the main idea and all the details as quickly as possible. It gives me a “road map” to begin. Thanks for the article!

  6. Thanks for sharing your ideas! I do procrastinate on my blog. Sometimes it flows very nice and sometimes it feels so sticky.
    I am just getting into blogging more and gaining a better respect for the bloggers who really have it going on. Thanks again!

    Peace
    MarVeena

  7. Great post — your #5 reminds me of a writing trick I learned years ago at a seminar put on by the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism — if you’re writing a reported story and you’re boggled by trying to weave together your interviews into a coherent whole, just put all your notes aside and write a draft without notes, quotes or attribution.

    Don’t worry about who said what or exactly what it was. Just spit out a dummy draft based on what you remember. The most interesting and important stuff will naturally rise to the top. Then you can go back and clean up your quotes to be precisely what was said and find out how to spell that guy’s name, and all that administrivia. Take that junk out of your writing flow, and it’s a lot easier to create a compelling story.

  8. Thank You! That frees up a lot of tension and apprehension I’ve had with writing. I’ll have to print this and keep it handy as good reminder for me…some of my English profs have really messed with my head when it comes to writing.

    …it keeps things uncomplicated, just the way I like it!

    Thank You Again,
    Andrea Pokorny

  9. Awesome post! Yea the best solution is to write the way you talk. That’s how you can keep the spirit of writing in you to keep flowing. And it’s also good to tell a friend to help you read your article. Thanks for sharin. Have fun.

  10. Awesome tips!

    I have been trying to add a nice story to my photo blog posts and these writing tips and your whole blog in general hav been a gold mine for me.

    Thanks!

  11. Thanks for sharing. As a newbie to blogging, I was a little nervous about not only how my content sounded, but I was also stressing that it would slow me down to a point that it would take a long time between posts.

  12. Mind if I chime in with the thoughts of an Editor? While ‘writing how you speak’ may work for the Blogosphere, it doesn’t work so well for article writing or web content. In these cases, you will find that your clients give you guidelines about the tone they want (if you’ve designed your briefing procedure properly, that is), what audience they want to reach and how they want to portray their business and their message. As a writer, you have to take these instructions into account when creating content, otherwise you will find your chatty, friendly, ‘having a goss’ with a mate’ style roundly rejected.

    A more relaxed, informal style is what is expected in Bloggerverse, but in the commercial world there is a clear definition between this particular style and more business-orientated copywriting.

    However, in blogs this more informal style does work, but my advice would be not to take it to extremes. Don’t shy away from using ‘big’ words – credit your audience with a level of intelligence. People’s use of language is much more complex than we often assume, so don’t be afraid to use ‘der big words’ from time to time. It won’t necessarily make you sound like a pompous ass – it can give you an air of authority that promotes a level of trust in your expertise amongst your readers. The most important questions to ask are ‘does it convey the message effectively’ and ‘are my readers engaged’?

    And please, for the love of GOD, spellcheck before posting! Nothing will scream ‘amateur’ faster than a blog or any other piece of writing that is peppered with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or even colloquialisms. (On that point, also remember that not everyone speaks the same version of English either…)

    • I agree with you to a point, but for your rough draft is should still be ok to write as if you were having a conversation. This allows you to get the basic ideas you want to cover down on the page and gives you a place to start from.

      After you have that, you can go back and fine tune it to fit what the customer ordered. The audience you are writing for is always important to take into consideration. If you are writing for experts on a topic, then using words that they understand is fine.

      I do agree with you on the spell check, I love to read, and there is nothing more likely to put me off than finding simple spelling errors in the material. I immediately, begin to wonder if the material is worth reading at that point.

    • Hi Kirsten! Thanks for the comment, and I do agree with you that journalism, copywriting, and blogging are different “genres” of writing.

      Choosing which style to use should be based on what will engage and connect with your audience the best.

      However I’ve seen many articles and instances of web content that use a relaxed, informal style that works great and generates a higher conversion rate than more formal-sounding text.

      Again, it all comes back to “who’s the audience” and writing in a style that connects with them.

  13. Hi there Logan,

    First of all, I would like to thank you for this post. I really mean it. Because right now I’m having some kind of mental block and I really need a medicine to cure this thingy.

    Guess what, your post is the medicine that I’m talking about!

    I totally agree with your ideas about ‘Write the way you talk’. It is what I’ve done again and again in blogging atmosphere and the best thing is it creates more loyal readers because we’ve communicate as friend.

    Thanks once again for this post. Looking forward to read your upcoming post with Copyblogger.

    • Take two doses of “write the way you talk” and call me in the morning. :)

      So glad you found this helpful Aqif! I have no doubt it will help unleash your inner awesomeness!

  14. This is a great post. I’m trying to hash out a piece for my site and came across a few of the insecurities that you mention.

    It’s so easy to fall into that vacuum when the writing engine isn’t firing on all cylinders.

    I’m glad I read this today, before tackling the project again. Thanks so much!

    -nd

  15. In high school the editor of our literature magazine gave me advice that I’ll never forget – scrap the adverbs and use a metaphor or idiom.

    When I do that, my writing reads a lot more like I talk.

  16. When writing my book, I got so much advice about what voice I should use, what I should say or not say that confusion was rampant in my my brain.

    Gave it all up — wrote the book in simple language- the way I talk- AND won USA Book Finalist Award…..

    Living proof that straight talk works.

    http://www.kathycondon.info

  17. Excellent. Very helpful.

  18. Logan,

    The one thing that has helped my writing the most is learning that it’s best to write conversationally and not academically. It’s also incredibly liberating.

    I learned this in a book called:”Writing with Style” by John Trimble. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. He’s a professor at UT in Austin, and the book is incredible. One of his biggest points is that writing is a conversation between writers and readers, and good writers treat writing like a conversation. He also includes 7 “rules” that good writers should break. They are:

    1) Never begin a sentence with But or And.
    2) Never use contractions.
    3) Never refer to the reader as you.
    4) Never use the first-person pronoun I.
    5) Never end a sentence with a preposition.
    6) Never split an infinitive.
    7) Never write a paragraph containing only a single sentence.

    If you think any of this sounds helpful, you’ll definitely want to check out this book. It’s more helpful than ten college English classes and a whole lot cheaper.

    Great post Logan! Thanks!

    • The fact that those 7 things were “rules” in the first place just shows you why so much corporate writing is so bad. Really, never refer to the reader as “you”? That’s just Psychology 101 bad if you want someone’s attention and action.

      • Very true. In a public speaking class I learned that the most important word in public speaking is “you.” Why wouldn’t this also be true for writing?

      • Ditto what Brian said.

        Actually, when I’m writing, I can’t help referring to the reader as “you” because in my mind, it’s almost like I’m writing a letter to an individual reader – not just assembling words on a page.

        As you can tell, I broke a lot of those “rules” in school. :)

    • I think I break all of those rules most of the time.

      I was told in junior high (middle school for some of you) that I write how I talk and that’s great for book writing, just not for essay writing. I learned to fear the pen.

      I’ve noticed lately that when I write I use phrases like “I am” or “I have” instead of their appropriate contractions. I always go back and fix it in the editing phase, but I would like to move out of that habit completely instead of always fixing it. And, my favorite way to add to a thought is starting a sentence with But or And. It keeps the run on sentences at bay, for the most part. XD

      Logan, this was a very informative post. It just concreted my thoughts on my own writing and how I want to sound. I think writing how I talk has made me a successful writer on my blog – now to figure out how to use it in my product descriptions.

  19. Great post! Thanks for the practical and helpful advice.

    I’m forwarding this to my group coaching students and recommending that they subscribe to your blog.

    Stacy

  20. Hi Logan,

    Oh, do I know that feeling of staring in front of the computer and being scared to start writing. You know intellectually that you do have something worthwhile to say and yet fear rears it’s ugly head, time and again. I’m glad to read that someone with 15 years experience (and who won awards yet!) feels the same way. You’ve offered some great tips in overcoming the fear and I especially like the ‘write the way you talk” approach. I often get stuck in the ‘pretentious’ writing patterns because that’s what I’m used to during the years and years of being in school taught me, even though I’ve been out of school for longer than I had been in it. It’s definitely a shift in mindset and approach which is needed for the net than for written papers. Funny enough, when I do write off-the-cuff articles they go over better with my readers than something that I spent hours researching.

    A very helpful post, so thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom.

    Karen

    • Karen,

      I think you hit the “nail on the head” with this:

      “…when I do write off-the-cuff articles they go over better with my readers than something that I spent hours researching.”

      It’s amazing how people connect with what you write when you’re letting your humanness show. Those parts of you that some people see as “chinks in your armor” are in fact vulnerabilities that endear you to your audience in most cases.

      Thanks for the comment, and keep stepping out of that comfort zone to be authentic. Your readers will love you for it as you’ve noticed. :)

  21. Fantastic tip to “write the way you talk.” I am definitely guilty of struggling to sound literary when all I really need to do is say it!

  22. This is a great post. I find that I have the same fear of writing because I spend too much time looking through the Thesaurus for a better word. Thanks.

    • Glad you liked it Kristi! I also used to dig through the Thesaurus like I was on a scavenger hunt for the “right” word – until I realized the perfect word I was looking for was the same one I would use when I was talking.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • It was Stephen King who said, “Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.”

  23. Great, great ideas.

    Sorry to disagree with Kirsten – the best articles, ad copy, and blog posts place no bumps in the road. They talk to the reader. Which isn’t to say they don’t require editing; it’s hard work to make language simple, clear and personal. But “talking the first draft” is just a wonderful way to start. If your ideas are sound, it always, always works well – usually much better than trying to run concepts through the rational grinder in your head. Creativity and editing are two separate processes; far, far better to keep them separated.

    Joe Henderson, the founding editor or Runner’s World, is an editor’s editor. He writes like he speaks and has published thousands of articles.

  24. Thank you, Logan. This is a very helpful post.

  25. Excellent post. I definitely see myself in that post. I waiver back and forth between the experienced writer and the frazzled newbie. Procrastination definitely makes it worse and it makes me fearful regardless of whether I was or not in the beginning.

    I wish someone had given me that advice long ago. I started doing that as I became more experienced, but when I first started out editors would say to minimize my voice – in so many words – it wasn’t ’til I learned to make it sound natural, like me, that I finally got it all wrapped up in one bundle. I’m not sure if that comes out in my blog (LOL!) as far as magazine or newspaper writing goes, but my voice is all over the place in everything I write.

  26. Magnificent seven writing tips, which I believe would help carry me through any writing task. Indeed it is very liberating to just write the way that one talks and in doing this I would really talk to myself while writing just like dictating to my writing hand or fingers tapping the keyboard keys what ideas to bring out in writing. It really helps to let your draft stay overnight because on the following morning you will be able to review and revise your copy to improve it more. For those who might be writing on a difficult topic, may I share a technique that is really working great for me. I would think about the topic and “storm my brain” how to go about it while I am about to sleep. In fact I would fall asleep thinking how I would write about the topic, imagining the outline and even the introductory sentence. The following morning you would be surprised that words and ideas flow as you write. Thanks for the tips!

  27. I definitely agree with your advice Logan and read every one of the comments with great interest too while at the same time wondering who would be the first one to mention that so many people, men mostly, need to pepper their conversation with swear words for emphasis!

    So I ask, with tongue in cheek, would applying your method of ‘writing the way you talk’ lead that particular group to start talking the way they write? In a conversation with a friend would they learn to put their point across using only cleaned-up language?

    Just saying … :)

    • I think the warning signs would be if you started opening your everyday conversations with “52 ways to…” or “The Zen of …” and everything you said was coming out in bulleted lists, after which you paused for comments. :)

      Glad you liked the post!

  28. Hi Logan,

    Your tips are wonderful. When people get anxious or fearful, it is when we can see their lowest level of performance. Writing is not the exception. A relax and simple communication will give us run to focus on the content. Thank you for that reminder.

  29. How many times do you have to hear the same message before it finally sinks in? It seems like everywhere I turn lately, and every post I read, the author slips in something along the lines of, “Get over the fears of messing up or sounding stupid.” I realize that wasn’t necessarily the heart of your article, but I think I’m starting to notice that is the message that always sticks out to me. I guess I know what I need to change about the way I write! Thanks a million for continuing to write and making an effort to inspire.

  30. John Sheridan :

    Hi Logan,

    One of the most well written and informative articles I’ve read in a long time. Keep them coming.

  31. I;ve never been much for writing, but there are some great tips in here that will help me keep on truckin’. Thanks!

  32. I use to looooath writing with a passion, but then one day I bought a voice recorder and lapel clip-on mic and the words flowed.

  33. Write the way you talk. I follow this.

    So, one of my readers who heard me giving an inspirational speech said, “I like the way you write. You write the way you talk. I like to attend your next talk.”

    Write the way you talk. if your talk sucks, improve your talk. Then you can improve your writing.

  34. Thanks for that post, Logan. I am the queen of procrastination and I often struggle with being able to articulate my thoughts. Great tips – the idea of writing like you talk is great and such a liberating one at that!

  35. Something about this is very intuitive and I love it! I started thinking about how I engage my audience, or my group members, and what it is I actually say to them. This helped me write my blog- and I’ve found that creatively writing for the intended audience is much more fun and less tedious than those papers I cranked out in graduate school.

    I had a conversation with someone last weekend about the fact that I used the words ” a whole ‘nother” in my blog post, ’cause I would definitely say that…don’t know how kosher it was but it was fun.

    • “…and I’ve found that creatively writing for the intended audience is much more fun and less tedious than those papers I cranked out in graduate school.”

      You’re so right Renee! It’s amazing how much you can enjoy writing when you relax and focus on being yourself.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  36. > “Write the way you talk.”
    So true.

    When somebody on my team gets stuck, I tell them just write an email to them self or to a friend … and that busts through their block in no time.

  37. In order to get over my writing blocks, I use what I like to call “dirty” writing. Essentially I simply type whatever comes to mind no matter how sloppy, how poorly written it is or how irrelevant it is. I keep on writing until I am done with the article and I do not read any of it until I am done. In the end, the article or writing only usually needs small revisions even though I paid no attention to the writing process when I was actually writing. The point is that I simply go in with a carefree attitude and I fully expect to end up with a major revision at the end. Having a lesser expectation seems to make me jump over my writer’s block. The advice your Professor gave you is spot on though; write like you are writing to a friend is some of the best advice that I have ever received as well.

    • Anne Lamott calls that the “shitty first draft,” and sometimes it’s really what you need. Just get it out there, no matter how horrible. It can be drivel, it can be annoying, it can be the worst sentences ever written in English. Just get it onto the page/screen.

      (Hm, maybe I need to get back to writing my post now …) ;)

  38. I love it! It feels so much more natural and honest when I write the way I speak and I feel like it definitely makes the writing flow. The people that are supposed to connect with you will resonate with your writing style and your personality.

  39. Absolutely! And beautifully put Logan.

  40. Absolutely! I sometimes like to think of it as writing a letter to my mom or grand mom – when confronted with trying to explain layered ideas and complex processes. It forces simplicity and getting to the core of the idea. And then can be fleshed out as needed, once the heart of the matter is on the page/screen.

  41. I wish I wasn’t such a perfectionist, it would make my life so much easier! Great tips – thanks.

    • From one perfectionist to another, I feel your pain. Try focusing on being yourself, relax while you write, and think more about connecting than fixing. Those tips (and the ones above) have helped ease my perfectionism.

  42. When experts like you endorse that writing is hard and difficult task …it feels great. Your techniques are all great and very very useful. Thanks!

  43. LOL- I was a great English student in my day and have even been published before, but I love blogging!

    It is so liberating to be yourself!

    Although, like mentioned above by Mark W, you do need to end sentences properly, spell correctly, etc…..

    Joseph’s advice is also pretty good, but it’s hard not to use you or I- I speak to my readers about my experiences(that would be the “I”)

    And occasionally, I start a sentence with and :-). It’s not grammatically correct, but it’s me!

  44. Great post Logan, thanks for sharing.

    I like #2, and for some of my sites I’ve taken it a step further by doing video recordings. You can get a video for YouTube, a transcribed article, and a podcast all in one shot.

  45. … “write the way you talk”… My high school teacher said the same thing. Didn’t make much sense to me then but makes a ton of sense to me now… some 20+ years later. Thanks for a great post & the reminder.

  46. Imagine a world where everyone wrote like they talk.

  47. I also had a teacher who barked at me for not writing “the way you talk”… then we had a conversation.

    Sometimes it’s not quite that easy. I’ve had to learn to write the way “people” talk.

  48. These are some great ideas. I do not have a fear of talking usually, however, I can occasionally freeze when put on the spot to speak about something important or when writing about something that is not a simple story.

    Lately, a new passion and ability has come from somewhere allowing me to speak better and write more freely. I find that if I write often about nothing or something great (on paper), it makes it easier to do so when I actually need to write a post.

    Thanks for the great post and tips!

  49. This was good advice. I really appreciated this. I have often had to stop and pretend I was talking to someone when I get a writers block. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this matter!

  50. Great ideas. Someone recently showed me how to write (or create) within the constraints of the medium and then push it to the limit.

    We all have our insecurities, but allowing time to pass and with a couple of successful articles under out belts – they tend to disappear.

    Thanks for bringing this topic to light.

  51. Two rules:
    1. Write the way you talk to create your first draft.
    2. Then edit your draft to make it clear and succinct.

    If you don’t write the way you talk, then your writing sounds pompous and needlessly complex — i.e., like 99 percent of textbooks.

    And if you don’t edit your draft, then even a conversational writing style can be unclear and verbose — i.e., like many emails and Facebook messages.

  52. Writing isn’t easy, it takes practice, so the more you write, the more at ease you will be with it. Writing the way you talk is a good idea, but you have to go back to your draft and tweak it make sure grammatically it makes sense and has a flow that is easy for your readers to follow. There isn’t one way that people can follow to create great content, whatever makes you comfortable as a writer is the way to go, as long as you are getting your message across in an interesting captivating and clear manner, you will be successful.

  53. When I started blogging for different brands I struggled with this problem big time. I was so caught up with trying to sound a specific way that I lost track of the voice that had gotten me the opportunities in the first place. As important as it is to remember your audience, if you aren’t authentic then it won’t really matter because the quality of your work will suffer.

    I can say from experience that these tips really will help anyone who finds themselves in the same boat! Seriously, save the critical eye for the editing stage and just write what feels right first. It makes a huge difference!

  54. I love this advice – I use it often. As an editor, I’d rather deal with spelling mistakes and poor grammar than pretentious writing that uses a lot of words but actually says very little.

    Another way of helping people to get over their fear of writing is to break up the task. Rather than saying “Write a story about X”, get them (or yourself) to answer a few questions instead: “WHAT is X?”; “WHO does X affect?”; “WHY is X important?”; “WHERE is X located?”, “HOW will X affect the future?”. Before they (or you) know it the story will be written.

  55. You are missing the point Logan. You suggest writers to write as they speak, with simple words. I think that works great, but not for long. I believe that this action should follow up with increasing your spoken vocabulary so you can bring it onto the table when you write. And, only when you speak out the difficult words, the usage in words sound much better and authentic.

    • Thanks for your comment Abhinav! I do agree with you that increasing your own vocabulary is always a good idea. However, trying to force your readers to increase theirs is not. Many studies have been done that show the average adult reads at an 8th grade level, and trying to force them to expand their vocabulary by purposely using large, intellectual words in your writing that people don’t normally use in conversation will cause you to miss the mark with your readers.

      It’s critical to the success of your writing that you tailor your writing to the audience you’re trying to reach if you want it to have the desired effect. If you want an average reader to understand what you’re writing about, don’t use an over-complicated vocabulary. Likewise, if your audience is a more intellectual crowd like doctors or attorneys, you don’t want to water down your vocabulary or over-simplify your writing.

      So by all means continue expanding your own vocabulary! Just make sure you write at a level your audience will understand and connect with.

  56. Great blog. I really like the idea of writing like you talk. Good writing should be a friendly conversation with the reader. Even technical material should be written with understandable words and short sentences. Stepping away from the readers and treating them like an audience makes everything stiff. This idea works well as long as you usually talk like an ordinary person. I used to practice law. Word merchant, if you will. Whereas, no one heretofore desires to read the relevant content the party of the first part disseminates to the party of the second part. :>)

  57. I really like this! This is really practical and useful. I can write like I’m talking. I usually mouth the words as I’m typing anyway. I also like the suggestion to just get it written and then go back and edit it.

    Will you next post be about editing?

    Thanks for doing this great post.

  58. I have the opposite problem – too much to say, too much I want to write about, no time to get it done (given that my main vocation is as an artist and of course creating my art comes first).

    Write the way I speak? yes, I really do speak this way. Mostly. Sometimes in long meandering (but not really run on) sentences. I am verbose, perhaps even extraordinarily so. In the second grade we were directed to write (I forget boout what) and I had plenty to say. So I wrote and wrote long after everyone else was finished. My idiot teacher paced up and down the aisles waiting for me. When I was finished I handed it to her and she, without giving it even the most cursory of glances tore it up and gave me an “F.”

    I love oratory, can you tell?

  59. After I write something, I reread it several times, and edit it as I’m doing same. I also go to a local writers group at our library where we critique each others work, which is extremely helpful. I even do that with some of my blog posts too, and make their suggested changes on same. Some of the members at that group are published writers of their own books etc…

  60. Judith L. Smith, Artsystuf :

    Well I like to talk and I like to write in word so I’m willing to try if only I knew where to put my true story about the birth of my snowy people.
    I have some up and I think good descriptions but there is a story about how they were first born that I would like to share and don’t know where to put it in my shop. Can someone please tell me?

    Thank You.

  61. Thank you for all the wonderful advice!! :)
    Now is time to put it in practice!!

  62. Thank you for all the tips. Great timing. I did take a stab at it and I am writing now as I speak. I will let it sit for a day or so and let my friends critique my new profile. I hope I make you proud.

  63. Great post – but what if using unnecessary or ‘big’ words is how you normally speak? I’ve had the hardest time trying to get my husband to write coherent blog posts based on this recommendation alone (from what other people have said to him – “talk like you’re talking to a friend”).

    I remember when we were first going out, he asked me “Would you like to partake in this piece of chicken with me?”. I thought he was joking, but he didn’t understand why I was so taken aback by it. The other day he complained about “the proliferation of children running amok near the door to our apartment.” Have any suggestions for people, such as my hubbs, who just speak like that naturally?

    • Hi Ann,
      I once heard the saying “Never use a long word when a short one will do”. This is possibly the easiest (although sometimes time-consuming) way to make sure writing is clear. Your husband might need to go through his posts word by word to decide if there is any simpler way of saying things. Common examples are: utilise vs use; objective vs aim; concerning vs about; absense of vs no; in relation to vs regarding; accommodate vs hold.

      At school we were taught the opposite of this: to replace everyday words with longer ones to make us sound cleverer. As adults, however, doing this can make us sound pretentious (even if we’re not).

      It might seem crazy, but if your husband unlearns this habit, he’ll probably become a better writer.

    • That’s a great question Ann, thanks for sharing it!

      There’s a couple things your husband could do as exercises to work on his writing based on what you’ve described. The first is to spend some time listening – really listening – to the people around him and how they talk. Specifically to take notice of the words they’re using in conversation and compare them to the words he would naturally want to use.

      The second idea is to spend some time analyzing articles and blog posts that talk about similar topics to the ones he writes about. How are they structuring their posts? What words are they using? Pick them apart bit-by-bit to better understand what appeals to his audience, and then try to use that as a guide when he’s writing.

      At first it will definitely feel like he’s “dumbing down” his writing (to him anyway). But the real goal is to mold his writing into a style that his readers easily understand and connect with.

    • Ann, if I may partake in offering a suggestion ;-) — I used to believe that using big words in complex sentences made me look smarter.

      Later, I was convinced that the hallmark of a great writer is the ability to express an idea simply. Not everyone can do it!

      Point two of this article might help: http://www.kevinkane.com/2010/08/5-smart-tips-for-brilliant-writing/

      From a verbose guy in recovery, good luck to you and your husband!

  64. Hi,

    great advice. I like it. it makes writing easier at least (academically). I second the previous comment on posting on editing. after i finish a peice of writing i avoid it. it scares me just to think that i have to read it and polish it till i have a revised version.

    when is a draft not a draft? how many drafts do I need until i have a final draft?! does editing also entail rewriting huge parts, correcting mistakes or repetition?

    thanks

    • Angie – in my opinion, a draft is no longer a draft as soon as you hit deadline!

      The more times you look at it, the more times you will find something to change. At some point you need to say “it’s good enough”.

      If you write how you talk, your message will be clear (the first step in editing is for clarity). This is the step at which you would delete parts that don’t add value, or are repetitive.

      The second step is to go through and proofread for spelling, grammar and style (ie fix mistakes).

      By doing this you can hardly go wrong. Any further editing will result in unnatural sentence structure or the inclusion of unnecessarily long words – the exact opposite of writing how you talk.

      Chances are, nobody is ever going to read your finished work as many times as you have read your draft. If you write like you talk (unless you are an imbecile), they’ll focus on your message rather than your writing style. And isn’t that what you’d want?

      Hope this helps.

  65. You are my angel!! Thank you sooo much for your tips! I just cant say anything anymore but bunch of sincere gratitude to you! Keep motivating people! Some people dont have support group and this is what they are searching for :)

    God Bless You!

  66. The problem with writing using only small words and informal language is that this begins to take over everyone’s writing such that, in my life as an adjunct assistant professor teaching university level astronomy, physics, and natural science courses, I am receiving more student papers that lack proper grammar, cogent thinking, or even a hint of literary competence. Not all of them, of course, but more and more of them. Moreover, how am I to take seriously someone whose writing suggests they haven’t finished even primary school? If the writer doesn’t care about her language, how can I care about her topic? (This assumes the writer is a native speaker.)

    True, one doesn’t want to be overly pretentious, but to totally reject the fluidity and poetry of our language is a disservice to each of us, to our linguistic heritage, and to the beauty of words and their music.

    In the end, before one can break a rule, one must understand the rule and comprehend why it was made a rule in the first place. Then the breaking becomes an act of purpose and not just an act of carelessness.

    • I agree. Good writing should not be noticable.

      I disagree, however, about using only short words.

      Winston Churchill once said “The best words are the short ones, and the best short words are the old ones.” Not a single word is more than a syllable and yet it is perfectly poetic.

      Nobody is suggesting that people should write informally all the time. If you wanted to be more specific, you could say “Write how you talk to your grandparents.”

      “Kids these days” do have a lot to learn about spelling, grammar and the art of writing. Until society places more value on that part of their education, the quality of their writing will not improve.

      Encouraging someone who doesn’t have a proper grasp of English to write more “musically” is inviting them to mangle the language. Just ask George W Bush.

      • You make some good points and I will be back after a few hours of sleep (I hope) to respond more completely but for now, I’d like to advise novice writers to get and use a copy of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.”

        GWB was never musical. At least, not to my ears! :)

  67. Really nice article. Very inspiring words.

    Thanks for the tips.

  68. Holly:

    That’s exactly what we do at the writers group that I go to at our local library… Correcting any mispellings, punctuations, and checking the grammar, etc., moreso than having us use different wording unless we use a word too often, like overkilling the word, and not using a Theasorous (sp) to find an alternate word. I’m dyslexic and need some editing at times, especially when Spell Check isn’t available. Some of the published writers in the library group would deliberately use bad grammar because that would be the way the character talked that their storyline is about or when telling a joke or the like… I learned from them that when you use……. at the end of a sentence or the like, that you don’t put more than three of the…’s. They’ve told me to watch the length of my sentences too. And not to use too and also as much as I normally do. Their editing my writings helps me. Some of us need it, and, some of us don’t. I’m one that does need it… Yes, they also taught me not to use such words as don’t too…When sending write-ups to our local newspaper, they automatically run Spell Check not just on mine, but, on everyones write-ups who submits articles to them. When I did up elementary age sports write-ups when my sons were younger, the sports editor would change a word here and there to “spice up” the game action on me.

    ***************************************

    Author: Holly
    Comment:
    Angie – in my opinion, a draft is no longer a draft as soon as you hit deadline!

    The more times you look at it, the more times you will find something to change. At some point you need to say “it’s good enough”.

    If you write how you talk, your message will be clear (the first step in editing is for clarity). This is the step at which you would delete parts that don’t add value, or are repetitive.

    The second step is to go through and proofread for spelling, grammar and style (ie fix mistakes).

    By doing this you can hardly go wrong. Any further editing will result in unnatural sentence structure or the inclusion of unnecessarily long words – the exact opposite of writing how you talk.

    Chances are, nobody is ever going to read your finished work as many times as you have read your draft. If you write like you talk (unless you are an imbecile), they’ll focus on your message rather than your writing style. And isn’t that what you’d want?

    Hope this helps.

  69. Good topic.

    writing how you speak does work for a lot of people. It certainly makes a blog feel more friendly and accessible. It really depends how you speak.

    In a lot of cases people writing how they speak leads to lots of qualifiers in the writing. There is nothing worse than an article full of ‘pretty’ or ‘fairly’.

    It’s certainly a good thing to try to get the writing going, but I wouldn’t make it the golden rule.

  70. Out of all the articles I have read to help me with my shop, this one is the one I needed to read the most. Thank you so much for your encouragement by sharing what your professor shared with you. I literally “loath writing. I can paint and express this way, but to write is my “hugest fear!” The thought of thousands of people viewing my descriptions to my product worries me that I will ruin my product. Any how I will try to be more confident and just not worry to much. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    By the way, your style of writing is very smooth and easy to read as well. I don’t like reading, but this was very flowing and intriguing. :)

    • Thanks Shelli! Glad you liked it, and I’m thrilled that it’s helping you with your writing! One tip that might help you even further: don’t think of it as thousands of people reading what you write. Instead, imagine you are writing to a single person. That should help you relax a bit more when you write which will build your confidence.

  71. Logan, this has been my mantra since a college professor and mentor gave me the same advice in my very first journalism class. It was actually a slight variation: “Write like you talk, only better.”

    I still share this wisdom with younger writers and use it to remind myself what it’s all about. Great article!

  72. Thank you so much! I have been trying to get a small jewelry business going and began writing a blog. I’ve never been a writer so this has been a big step for me. It’s so nice to hear I’m not alone in the fear I’ve been feeling before I write every entry. I will definitely use your technique and see how it works for me.

    • You’re definitely not alone Marissa. Fear-induced writer’s block is a common problem that most (if not all) writers face. Glad this post is helping you overcome it! Stick with it, and you’ll find writing will become easier over time – in fact, you’ll probably end up enjoying it eventually! :)

  73. I have uni students who write like they talk and apparently they talk as if they were illiterate. I won’t give examples but I will tell you that I am very unlikely to give any credence to a native speaker who doesn’t take the time to learn what the words mean that they are using.

    Hence, Shane’s advice makes the most sense. Use your voice but use it carefully.

  74. Mr. Zanelli,
    As an Etsy Success Holiday Boot Camp participant, this week’s extra credit assignment was to read your article and I am delighted to say you have greatly reinforced my blog writing style.
    Fortunately I use language well and I was trained as a performing artist, so ‘my voice’ is sensibly modulated.
    I want you to know that you have encouraged me to continue with my own verve and vigor blogging and article writing submissions, many of which I believe have begun to create a buzz about my little HIDE A HEART biz.
    Thank you very much.

    • Wow, very cool. Glad this was so helpful for you! Sounds like you’re on the right track with your blog, and I’m excited to hear that you’re creating a “buzz” about your business. Keep up the “verve and vigor” and I look forward to hearing about the awesomeness you continue to create! :)

  75. The Etsy Boot Camp link also brought me over here, too.

    This weeks session had us updating our Profile. I did that over at Etsy.com as per their suggestion. I added the story behind my wine glass necklace holders to same. I actually have several Blogspots. One, which the link you go to when click on my name, is the Main One. Over on the side of it, I have links to my other Blogspots along with a link to my Etsy store where I have the WGNHs listed. Also have a link to the WGNH blogspot listed there, too. Alot of writing on all of them, which is mostly done up in the style that you have been talking about: Write it as if you were talking to someone. I also did up a link to this article on my Facebook page too. Some of the members of the writing group I’m associated with are tied into that, and, the 2 links to here might be of interest to them, too. I’m sorta link happy you might say, linking everything to everything…LOL

    • Peggy, I think your interlinking is a great idea.

      I am also doing the Etsy boot camp thing. I now have my main blog associated with my website, an Artfire blog, and an unused blogspot blog. Oh yeah and Live Journal. Which actually also not used and therefore probably not even in existence any more.

      I’m not sure I like being so spread out because that’s all the more stuff I have to work on and keep track of. It has gotten to be a bit much, all in all. Well, considering I also have a bunch of other dormant shops and accounts and have actually to create my art as well!

  76. Logan, loved your post. Just one thing, I try to write far better than I talk. By better, I sure as heck don’t mean more eloquent…

    My first drafts are always serious and factual – just like me. Upon editing I try to change that up. It’s like having a wide choice of spices to add to the recipe. What to choose?

    I first look to add things like humanity and emotional resonance. Breathe some life into my words with stories, metaphors and anecdotes. I also try to simplify instead of complicate and look for opportunities to package my words into sound bites that will have a chance to stick.

    Ultimately, I write copy to inform, entertain and influence. Only the first of those 3 comes natural to me.

    Joe :D

    • Right on, Joe. Some of us write in an overly-formal manner, as though some imaginary thesis adviser is hovering over our shoulder. (Especially if you’ve actually *had* an adviser shadowing you while you write, as I once did.)

      My draft usually starts with the facts, too — answering the who, what, when and where type of questions.

      Then when I edit, I try to punch my copy with humor, anecdotes, and a call to action.

  77. How do you commenters get your picture to display beside your comments?

  78. I love this! Write how you talk should be the mantra in all English classrooms by grade 12. I learned this a while ago, and have turned it into the perfect way to maximize how much I write.

    And, hey, if you want to take it literally, grab Dragon Naturally Speaking and simply share your thoughts. I’ve done it and it really works well.

  79. Hi Logan, I admired how your tips could generate over a hundred comments and more are coming. Is this all plain quality content or the many followers that you have generated (including myself) because your posts are quite a help. Thanks.

  80. Having someone else do my checking enables me to just write. It’s tremendously freeing!

    David
    “Salt and Light”

  81. I’m On this Journey Of Trying To Enjoy Writing, But I’m Scared Out Of My Mind.

    First, I’m Dyslexic (This Is The First Time I Have Spelled “Dyslexic” Right The First Time Around! YES!)

    Second, I Have Been Told To Many Times That I’m Not Good At Writing. But, I Will Not Let That Take Me Down! I Guess What I’m Trying To Say Is, Thank You! This Post Has Saved My Life (My Writing Life That Is!) Each Blog Post I Read Gets Me Closer To My Gaols! You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!

    Thanks,
    Alexander John (One Day The Worlds Best Copy-Writer! Maybe Second After CopyBlogger!)

  82. Logan, congrats on a great post and thanks for the good advice. It’s taken me some years of ad agency experience to learn to write more conversationally. And the tip to read your stuff aloud really works! Thanks!

  83. Hello Logan !! Your article really help me to edit my bio for my etsy shop I realize that the first one was weak and “it was not me”. So I wrote my story and it feels much better, I am practicing to have a list of the words I use more. Your article really did it for me. Thank you.

  84. Thanks for this super helpful article, Logan. I struggle with writing, so this really breaks it down for me!

  85. Excellent article Logan, especially the part about procrastination. Got me writing immediately.
    Howard