Does this sound familiar?
You’re sitting in front of your laptop, staring at a blank screen, or your current unfinished project.
A fear sets in. A fear of making mistakes, fear that what you wrote would sound stupid, fear that you’re writing wouldn’t make sense to the reader, etc.
You try to compensate for your writing fears by using stiff, formal sentences and large, important-sounding words to try to “prove” that you know what you’re talking about.
This happens to a lot of writers. This has happened to me.
It can easily backfire, as this can sometimes create unfair judgment, and make you and your work sound pretentious. By not being true to yourself, your writing will suffer.
Wanting desperately to sound smart in my writing, I took a Creative Writing Class in high school. Well, I took it because I loved writing, but that was a big concern of mine at the time. In one of her lessons, the teacher gave me some pretty awesome advice.
“Write the way you talk.”
I was baffled! It was such a simple, yet liberating thought! That one piece of advice (and a safe place to exercise this new discovery) helped me break free of my fears of not being “smart enough” to publish my work, and allowed me to adopt a more relaxed writing style. No more using large, unnecessary words just to try and impress the reader! I was determined at that point on to relax, be myself, and write.
Although it is important to write in your own voice, I would like to mention that writing the way you talk doesn’t mean write poorly. Please be aware of grammar, sentence structure, continuity, and all those other awesome things that create a well written piece! What this allows to do is helps break down those mental barriers of fear and procrastination that keeps us from being a more engaging and productive writer.
*DISCLAIMER: I am in no way a writing expert. The following advice is what I learned in school and has worked for me, but may not work for others.*
Here’s how to use “write the way you talk” to squash your insecurities and avoid sounding pompous:
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 a copy that’s more informal and conversational in tone, which better engages your audience.
RECORD YOURSELF TALKING ABOUT YOUR TOPIC
Not sure what you sound like in a conversation? Try recording yourself talking about your topic! (I understand that this can be daunting! It was (and still is) weird hearing my own voice, but it really helps!)
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, and a tone that makes you seem more human than textbook.
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.
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 chances are you need a different word.
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, put the “rule book” away for now and just write. Focus on getting the main points of your idea down in your first draft.
Once you’ve done that, you can easily go back and edit your writing.
- 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 your work to sit overnight and look at it again in the morning with fresh eyes. Once you do that, it’s easier to see if anything can be done to make your work even better.
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 your writing, 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.
READ WHAT YOU WRITE OUT LOUD
This is an excellent first editing test. Reading what you write out loud 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.
Was this article helpful? How do you inject authenticity in your work? 🙂