“Is it OK to write like I talk?”

by | May 6, 2020

You’ve labored long-and-hard on that flier.
Or maybe your website landing page text.
You’re no writer, but you can at least take a stab at it, right?
You show it to a friend, and he shreds your excitement balloon with
“You can’t write like you talk. It isn’t professional.”


Two writing experts are my guests today, and they will help set your mind at ease:
There are places where you can write like you talk
[And yes, I know it’s as you talk, but I’m in informal ‘mode.’]
When we work together, I’m careful about the rules.
But in my blog posts?
This is where – within reason – I have some freedom.
By the conclusion of this post, you’ll see:
Your friend may not know it all … after all
Okay, let’s check in with John Espirian (Ess-PIH-ree-un) and Sally-Anne Watson Kane, two of my talented writer buddies. They have good insight into our topic.
You’ll find their contact information at the end of this post, but for now, “Let’s dig in!” (An homage to my writing coach, Belinda Weaver. 😉 )

John Espirian 

One of my Brit friends, John provides “Relentlessly helpful technical copywriting for B2B websites.” (‘B2B’ = Business-to-Business) 
And believe me, he lives up to that fun tag phrase!
You’ll find John on LinkedIn and, soon, his new website.
I asked for his help with this post, and he gave me a gracious “Okey-doke.” (Well, in all honesty, he said, “Yes.” I’m the “Okey-doke”er.)
Thanks for the shout, Kathie.
It’s an interesting topic to dig into.
Everyone tends to nod their head when they hear the usual advice to “be real” and so on, but I think many of them also stop short of writing the way they would actually talk.
The fear is: “What if people don’t like this?”
The truth is: you can’t please everyone, and neither should you try.
It took me years to realise this. I’m much better for it.

John’s book, Content DNA, recently launched in print and digital.

It is packed with useful information.

If your reputation is built on the words you write, grab the book!

Sally-Anne Watson Kane

I find Sal refreshing in much the same way as John Espirian: helpful, no game-playing, and good at what she does as owner/operator of On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading.

Since she’s in Australia, I’m trying to figure out a way to make a tax-deductible jaunt to visit. Er … to l-e-a-r-n. Ha!

Australia’s been my dream since I was 16 years old. In 2000 (Tee hee).
Let’s dig into Sally-Anne’s advice on this whole write-like-you-talk thing:

Great topic, Kathie!

I use everyday language in my written communication (e.g., emails) but keep it grammatically correct and without abbreviations for a formal audience (e.g., a client or potential client).

Formal emails sound the way I speak when talking to a client.
They are professional.

When emailing my contractors or colleagues, I may even use slang. With these groups, I can be informal. I can also use a little humour, but only when I have known them for a while. 

I don’t proofread emails to contractors and associates, but always check those to clients or potential clients. They must be clear, concise, and to the point.

They can’t contain any typos, and, importantly, I delete any humorous or comments that my ‘formal’ audience may consider not entirely professional.

So … my view: as long as your style of verbal communication (i.e., the way you talk) is appropriate to a particular audience, you can definitely write like you talk with that group.

Here are some direct examples where Sally-Anne stresses the “Who?” side of the equation: who is your target audience when you write?

With articles, my target audience isn’t necessarily corporate executives, editors/proofreaders, or professionals.

It may include student editors, individual adults of any age, writers who work as a waitress or waiter as their day job, etc.

I am still careful not to be overly informal with my blog posts about business or editing, because, for me, these are serious subjects.

Since my audience is mostly professional, I usually write formally.

With movie or event reviews or contemporary issues – where my subject and audience are more casual – I loosen up a little.

The language of my blog posts reflects that.

I don’t doubt others tell you,

“You can’t write like you talk for your __< fill in the blank >__.”

Maybe they’re right.

Is it a research paper? Blog post? White paper? Email?

The tone depends on your audience.

My writing style is a mix of the advice from John and Sally-Anne.

For example, when I present James Cameron’s and Robert Ballard’s strategic management processes to get us to the RMS Titanic, I’m more formal.

If I want you to laugh at examples of c-r-a-z-y English, I have fun.

Never be afraid to ‘de-formalize’ for the right audience.
Hold your breath and dive in.
Where appropriate, unashamedly write like you talk!

Join the Conversation

Here’s a big “Thank You” to John Espirian and Sally-Anne Watson Kane.

Feel free to ask my guests a question in the comments section.

Then, check them out on their home turf:

John Espirian

On LinkedIn
Write-like-you-talk audio sample from Content DNA
Info from John + U.S. link to his book
Info from John + U.K. link to his book

Sally-Anne Watson Kane

On LinkedIn
• Website: On Time Typing, Editing and Proofreading

As usual, please share this post, subscribe so you won’t miss next month’s offering, and scroll down to join the conversation in the comments section.

Let’s all learn from each other

Thanks for stopping by! I know you’re busy and appreciate your time.
If you need help with this post, click here to email me with your questions.


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  1. John Espirian

    Fab! Thank you for including me in this, Kathie. It’s an understandable concern for many businesses. But I’ve found over and over that when you relax and show more confidence in what you write, that conversational tone will help you influence the people you want to work with. Stuffy and boring is not the path to success!

    • Kathie York

      It was my pleasure sharing your insights with my readers.

      Your expertise in LinkedIn and branding makes you a valuable resource to anyone who has words in their future.

      Oh. That means everyone!

      Appreciate your time, K.

  2. Shawn

    This is one I debate internally, on occasion. I try not to be too formal, even with some customers, but I still want to avoid too much slang or abbreviation in correspondence with them. I want my note/email/post to read like a friend but not too much like a friend. Great read!! Thanks, Kathie!!

    • Kathie York

      You are welcome, Shawn, and thanks for stopping by!
      It is a ‘dance,’ isn’t it?
      Some clients become friends, but there are lines to be drawn between too informal and juuuust right.
      I appreciate your time and contribution, K.


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Kathie York, CSQE
Queen of Non-Overwhelm
Business Operations Consultant
Goal Success Life Coach


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