If there’s one major difference between writing a speech and an essay, it’s this: when writing a speech, write like you talk! A speech is meant to be spoken, not read. So the more conversational you can make it sound, the better.
Although this may be contrary to what every English teacher has told you, nobody wants to listen to a long drawn-out speech that uses flowery prose or inspirational quotes. Speeches should be short, sweet and to the point.
So how do you write like you talk? Sometimes, it’s easier said than done. My advice is to write your first draft the way you usually would, then ask yourself sentence by sentence if this is what you’d say if you were talking to a friend. If it isn’t, imagine what you’d say and edit accordingly. If you’re still struggling, keep these 5 tips in mind.
1. Use short sentences.
One of the easiest ways to write conversationally is to stick to short sentences. If you pay attention to how you talk, you’ll notice that shorter sentences sound way more natural. Remind yourself that you don't need complex sentences to express complex ideas. In fact, challenge yourself to break up longer, complicated sentences into two shorter sentences where you can.
2. Start with conjunctions.
Again, tune out what you may have learned in English class because starting sentences with conjunctions is perfectly fine in a speech. Some of the most impactful sentences begin with words like ‘and,’ ‘but,’ ‘so’ and ‘or’ because they mirror the way we talk. Just make sure your use of conjunctions is followed by an independent clause to ensure it’s able to stand alone as a sentence.
3. Use contractions.
Similarly, contractions help to simplify your writing to make it sound more natural. Instead of saying “could not” or “should not,” you’re more likely to say “couldn’t” or “shouldn’t.” After all, a contraction helps you leave out certain letters and sounds, making it easier to keep things short and to the point.
4. Keep it simple.
Don’t use big words that you wouldn’t use when talking to someone. Oftentimes fancy words can give the false impression that you’re saying more than you actually are. Use just the number of words necessary to make your point.
5. Read aloud while you’re writing.
One surefire way to make sure you write like you talk is to read your speech aloud while you’re writing it. You’ll be able to tell right away if you sound like a book or a real person talking. If you notice that you sound more robotic than you’d like, pay attention to how you can select different words that make you sound more like yourself.
Remember, writing like you talk isn’t carte blanche to use slang, break a lot of grammar rules or write like you text. The goal is to use conversational language to make it easier for your listeners to understand what you’re saying and connect with it.