3. We write like we speak

Not like a technical report

One of the most powerful ways to make our writing clearer, simpler and more memorable is to write more like we speak.

When we talk we naturally pick simpler words, use more verbs, and shorter phrases. We often effortlessly find more interesting or memorable turns of phrase.

So by asking ourselves ‘how would I say this to someone in conversation?’ we can often unlock a better way of expressing something.

We can also use this technique to check our writing: read what you’ve written out loud. Does it sound like something you’d say in person?

Tip: Can’t get started? Find someone who’ll listen, hit ‘record’ on your voice memos, and explain the subject you’re trying to write about. Listen back. The chances are you’ll have captured a sentence or two that will get you started.


Sounds like writing:

As part of our on-going commitment to quality, we regularly evaluate our products to ensure they meet our high standards. During manufacturing process checks of the Insitec instrument, we identified a component quality issue that may affect the life expectancy of the laser module within the instrument.

We took the decision to pause shipments, begin a robust problem solving and resolution process to investigate the occurrence, and we are making good progress on understanding and resolving the issues.


Sounds more like speech:

We are sorry to tell you that our quality control checks recently identified a possible issue with the laser module in the Insitec instrument we were due to ship to you. As a precaution, we have paused shipment.

However, I’m pleased to say we now clearly understand the issue, there are no safety or accuracy implications, and we are confident we will soon have a permanent fix.

So, if you are happy to accept our interim control measures, we can ship your instrument.

What's changed?

  • Cut phrases we wouldn't say
    ‘begin a robust problem-solving and resolution process to investigate the occurrence’.
  • Shorter, simpler words
    ‘we… are confident we’ll soon have a permanent fix’ is closer to how we’d really talk to a customer.
  • Add little speechlike touches
    ‘We are sorry to tell you…’ and ‘I’m pleased to say’…’ help this message sound more human and reassuring.