You know online content should have a more conversational tone than other marketing materials. But remember that “informality” isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. “Conversational style has room for plenty of variation,” says Rick Sloboda of Webcopyplus. “For example, a conversation with your banker will differ from a conversation with your spouse.”
To find the right tone for your customers, Sloboda has tips like these:
Keep your voice active—not passive. A simple change from “You will be contacted by the next business day” to “We will contact you by the next business day” makes the statement appear less stiff and more trustworthy. “Web copy in passive voice sounds more formal,” he explains, “but it can also sound vague, unreliable and possibly deceptive.”
Recognize the importance of contractions. While you don’t want to overuse contractions, consider how they transform “Do not hesitate to give us a call. We would be happy to help you” into the far more inviting “Don’t hesitate to call us. We’d be happy to help.”
Keep paragraphs short. Big blocks of text look daunting when someone’s browsing online. So stick to brief paragraphs. And even include the occasional one-liner: “These are great for emphasis,” says Sloboda, “and invoke a casual tone.”
Mix formal and informal vocabulary. Real-world conversations tend to draw words from across the formal-informal spectrum. So make your content “sound” more realistic by balancing highbrow (substantial/myriad/numerous) with lowbrow (plenty/lots/tons).
Reach out to your customers with a more relaxed online tone, but don’t get sloppy about grammar and spelling. It’s one thing to let your hair down—another entirely to look unkempt.