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You are a human. Write like one.
Illustration by Justin Alm

5 min read

You are a human. Write like one.

Writing in a more casual, human tone could be all you need to improve internal communications readership.

Remember that time you tried to update everyone with an email bulletin, employee newsletter, or intranet article? The one you hoped everyone would read? Yeah. You remember. But nobody else does.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t get read. Everyone saw it pop up on their screens, but half of the company ignored it, and the other half read a few sentences and then went back to work.

But, why?

You were sure you did everything right this time. You had lots of relevant, interesting content. You thought you picked the right tools. You took all the right steps and you were so sure it was going to work. But, it didn’t.

The truth of the matter

I hate to break this to you but… the problem is not what you’re writing about, it’s the way you’re writing. The tech, the employees, and your topics aren’t to blame. It’s the way you’re delivering the message.

Don’t take it personally, it hard to tell an engaging yarn. It happens to the best of us. Luckily, we’ve got some tips and tricks that’ll bring you up to speed and skyrocket your readership.

Write like a human. Not a robot.

Sadly, when a lot of people write at work, they become extremely formal and start using corporate lingo. Their writing either sounds complex, dry, or like high-level company ideology that people don’t actually relate to.

You need to change that. You need to write like you would talk: like a human. Then other humans will want to read it.

  • Don’t sound pompous. Remember the saying - “if you can't explain it to a 6-year-old, you don't understand it yourself"? The rule applies to writing. If you use overly complex language, it can look like you’re trying to disguise a lack of knowledge. Even if you know what you’re talking about, your aim is not to win a literary prize - it’s to get your stuff read.
  • Don’t try to be too cool. Don’t swing to the other extreme! I’m not recommending you get grammar advice from Urban Dictionary. Nor am I suggesting that you speak only in acronyms, because TBH using YOLO is totes informal and may come off as a bit desperate. Don’t try to be too “hip” - just be you.
  • Keep it simple. Whether your colleagues are baristas or doctors, they’re all human. It’s universal. They’re also probably too busy to invest any time in reading content that’s confusing, overly verbose, or not entertaining. If you’re not comfortable writing humorously, then just keep it simple and light.

6 easy examples

If you don’t know where to start or still don’t have a clue how to put this into action, here are six generic company announcements and suggestions for how to transform them into readable nuggets. Some are more informal than others - choose what works for you and see how that affects the readership of your content.

  1. Instead of “Here are the latest sales figures,” try “Find out why you’re getting a bonus this year.”
  2. Instead of “Staff photos next Thursday,” try “The 80s are gone and so is your mullet. Let’s update that profile photo.”
  3. Instead of “Office Xmas Party, Wednesday Dec 14th,” try “Are you ready to dance like it’s nobody’s business?”
  4. Instead of “Staff profile: VP of Sales John Doe,” try “Staff Profile: We bet you didn’t know THIS about John!”
  5. Instead of “New Case Study,” try “See? Marketing DOES do something! Here’s the proof.”
  6. Instead of “Donate to Jake’s Movember cause,” try “Jake’s getting uglier by the day. Ignoring him isn’t going to make him go away—money will!” 

It’s all going to be ok

I know this style of writing may seem new (and possibly alarming) to some of you, but it’s rapidly becoming the norm. For those of you who are grammar traditionalists, let me assure you, I am too. (I even got a degree in reading and writing.) But, as technology has developed, so has the way we interact and the language we use. You should use the right tone for the technology you’re using.

Of course, it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be offensive or lazy with your writing - you should still be respectful and professional. But maybe loosen up a bit. Your workplace is full of humans, and they’ll find it easier to engage with something that sounds like it was created by a human. 

Take it one step further

When you start getting a great return on your new style of writing, you should build on the success. Storytelling is a great way to do this - it brings your content to life and adds a new flavour to your articles and emails.

If you want to look at the bigger picture of your communications, we've also got seven fundamental ways to improve internal communication throughout your organization.

Want an internal comms cheat sheet?

Download it here


Hannah Price

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