Speak Directly to Your Reader

23.08.2018 |

Episode #1 of the course Conversational writing: Engage your readers by Gay Merrill


Thanks for joining Conversational Writing.

My name is Gay Merrill. I’m a content writer and instructional designer focused on engaging educational content. I love working with words, online learning, and humor. (I also dabble in cartooning but that’s for another topic.)

So, what’s on the agenda for this course?

Over the ten lessons, we’ll be covering simple (and effective) techniques to make your writing friendlier and engaging, like you’re having a conversation with a good friend, close relative, or (insert person of your choice).

The goal is to give you practical skills you can use right away. In each lesson, I’ve created a few simple exercises for practice.

You might find some of the techniques simple, but I notice a lot of writing that doesn’t use them.

Optional: To work through the lessons, I recommend you choose a small writing sample. By the end of the course, if you’ve applied the lessons, your writing sample will have a more conversational tone.

Now, let’s get started with today’s lesson, which is all about your reader.


Write for One Person

Picture a person you’re writing for. Give that person a name. Joe? Fran? Who are you writing for? Describe the person with as much detail as possible. Think about age, profession, interests, and problems your reader has.

When you write, imagine you’re talking to the person you’ve chosen. This strategy will help your writing sound more casual, as if you’re speaking one-to-one with that person instead of to a faceless crowd.

Now that you have a particular person in mind, write directly to that person.


Use the second person, “You,” voice.

Many writers use the third person (she/he, they) voice. If you’re one of those writers, change it.


• Indirect (third person): My ideal reader is smart and funny.

• Direct (second person): You’re smart and funny.

The indirect sentence sounds impersonal. With a simple change to the “You” voice, the sentence becomes personal, direct, and engaging.

Here’s another example.

• Indirect (third person): Bloggers can engage their readers using conversational writing.

• Direct (second person): You can engage your readers using conversational writing.

Simple change. More direct.

Note: When you refer to yourself, use I (unless you’re speaking on behalf of more than just yourself. In that case, use we.) You also can start your sentences with “I” when you’re sharing your experiences, which adds a personal tone.



1. Picture your reader. Give them a name and describe that person. For examples, take a look at content writer John Espirian’s pen portraits.

2. Change the following sentences to speak to the reader.

• The applicant for the position requires experience with WordPress, SEO, and graphic design.

• Before publishing a post, writers should do a thorough check of their work.

• We encourage guests to participate in the meeting and provide their feedback.

3. Find a piece of your writing and identify the voice you’re using. If it’s not in “you voice,” highlight the sentences that contain third-person pronouns and see whether you need to change to “you voice.”

In Lesson 2, I’ll cover three tips to make your writing sound less robotic. (I’m talking to you, R2D2).

Have fun writing,



Recommended reading

How to Write Conversationally

How to Get 247% More People to Read Your Content


Recommended book

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott


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