“I don’t know the rules of grammar … If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”
David Ogilvy, Father of modern advertising
The biggest reason to use a conversational tone is readers pay more attention, read for longer and remember more of the content.
The data on conversational writing:
If you only have time to look at one of the links here, I’d encourage you to have a quick look at this AB test from Neil Patel.
Patel tested two versions of the same blog post with different tones (“formal” vs “conversational”). You can see the dramatic impact of the conversational tone in the stats:
- 247% more readers finishing the full article when written in a conversational tone
- An average of 4:45 minutes spent reading the conversational version, vs 1:22 minutes on the formal version
The neuroscience behind why conversational writing works:
Listening to a conversation vs reading a written article uses different parts of the brain. This matters a lot, because the conversation part of your brain tends to pay much more attention.
Neuroscience research shows your brain pays much more attention/memory to conversations (compared to written copy).
There’s a number of theories on why this happens. Most of them focus on the urgency of response (you might have to respond to a conversation, so you need to pay more attention).
But there’s a big trick here – the neuroscience research has also found that writing in a conversational tone tricks the brain. Conversational writing triggers the verbal part of the brain, and you pay more attention – just like a real conversation.
See more of the research here
Some side-by-side comparisons:
As I talked about in this recent Tuesday teardown on Atlassian vs Qantas. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, and how senior you are, if you’re not entertaining, direct and conversational, people just won’t read. Read or watch here.
In another of the recent Tuesday teardowns, I looked at the direct correlation between customer service ratings for the big four banks and the use of direct, conversational language on their homepage. Read or watch here.