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Why Writing Like You Speak is Your Secret Weapon

Jargon is bullshit.

The most effective messages are best consumed like great coffee: strong and without sweeteners that bury the flavor.

Powerful articulation comes from authenticity, not complexity.

And authenticity gets lost in translation when you’re speaking in a language that isn’t your own.

“You should be a writer,” my wife often said to me during our first decade together.

“I dropped out of high school. I don’t know where the commas go,” I always replied.

“Editors know where the commas go,” she finally insisted. “Write like you speak and you’ll make us a million dollars one day.”

Bless that woman.

Writing like you speak breaks down the invisible barriers between you and your readers, so they can feel your message instead of simply seeing it.

Ditch the jargon and speak your truth. Authentic writing cuts through the noise into the heart of your audience. Writing from a place of genuine expression invites readers into your world, turning words into a bridge to understanding.

1. Authenticity Breaks the Ice: Writing like you speak makes your personality shine through. In a world saturated with polished pitches and automated responses, authenticity is oxygen in a room where most people are holding their breath.

One reason I write so fast is that there isn’t really a barrier between what I want to say and how I want to say it. At least not in that first draft. I’m not really “writing” so much as typing what I would say out loud. So it’s frustrating to still feel so awkward when dictating. That should be natural for me. Instead the exercise still feels like exercise.

Breaking the ice goes both ways. Writing authentically gets me going, and it tends to keep my readers around.

2. Clarity is King: Transforming complex ideas into clear, conversational language is an art form that demands practice and finesse.

Start by grounding abstract concepts in everyday experiences through the use of analogies and metaphors. For instance, likening the intricacies of a software program to the inner workings of a car can illuminate its functions in a way that’s instantly more accessible to opposite ends on a spectrum of age.

Focus on the core message by stripping away unnecessary jargon and technical terms. Ask yourself, How would I explain this to a friend over coffee? Or beer, or wine, or weed, or whatever.

Anchoring your ideas in the familiar and the relatable can transform the complex into the comprehensible, inviting your audience inside for a dialogue instead of a lecture.

3. Engagement Through Empathy: The secret sauce that makes readers lean in, empathy connects you to the person spending time with your words in a shared human experience.

Back in the Writer Dad days, I used to think of writing as taking pictures with my words. I wrote to remember things more vividly, and shared that writing with an audience. I could not have put language to it then, but looking back on it now, I see all those posts as me shaking hands, making eye contact, and nodding with understanding across a digital divide.

When your writing reflects your voice, it reminds people that there’s a real person behind the words, making it easier to connect and engage on a personal level. Even among strangers.

4. Memorability: A simple anecdote from a friend can stick with you far longer than any polished presentation. That’s the magic of writing like you speak. You could be remembered, or you could be unforgettable.

Moments shared in our authentic voice become the stories that people carry with them, the ones they recall and recount. No one has yet said it better than Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Feeling, in this world of fleeting attention, is the truest form of memorability.

5. Forget about the commas: Not entirely, because that would be a shit experience for your reader. A well-developed relationship with your editor is a warp zone to growth. The right editor for you can polish your prose without dimming its spark, wielding their red pen like a brush on canvas. A good editor does not impose their style, but elevates yours.

Bonnie once cut 70K+ words out of a 200K draft of mine. Except for a couple of Borat jokes, I don’t even know what was missing. She distilled it down to make it sound even more like me.

This dance between writer and editor is less about correction and more about collaboration, turning raw thoughts into refined messages that still pulse with the writer’s original energy. Don’t let Am I doing this right? stand in the way of finding your voice.

Is that all easier said than done? Only if you’re over thinking it.

To effectively channel your inner conversationalist onto the page:

1. Start with honesty. Write that first draft without censoring yourself. If you would normally say something like “I’m thrilled,” then don’t write “I am exceedingly pleased.”

2. Once done, read your work out aloud. Does it sound like you? If not, tweak it until it does.

3. Practice. The more you write this way, the more your authentic voice will emerge.

But Sean, you constantly write in flowery metaphor, so is it fair to say, “What the fuck?”

To the joy (and eye rolling) of those who know and love me, that is indeed how I talk. 😜🙃😏