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The Formal Business Voice is Dead – The Content Wrangler

Shelly Davies discusses the death of the formal business voice and the need for conversational content that provides clarity, transparency, and empathy.

Source: The Formal Business Voice is Dead – The Content Wrangler

This is a great guest article from The Content Wrangler.  As the digital age has progressed, the more conversational tone has taken over in order to make communications more user-friendly.  Ms. Davies does a great job talking about the differences between formal business voice and conversational voice in this article.

I would, however, add that I slightly disagree that a formal business tone be abandoned altogether except in highly serious situations.  One of the things that really bothers me in digital communications–or even cold-calls that I receive–is familiar, conversational tones from a stranger. Sometimes, it gets to be TOO informal.  Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s an in-between level whereby you can use a more conversational tone yet keep things sounding (or reading) like a professional. If you sound like a kid trying to hawk goods or get on your good side, that’s a big turn-off for me. If you sound like you mean business without the “fancy” words, then I’ll definitely listen to you or read what you have to say. Finding that middle ground is a little difficult, and it takes practice, but it can be done.  I’d like to think that it’s almost taking a diplomatic tone, if you want to call it that. You speak using words that everyone can understand, but on terms that also been that you are serious and focused on the message at hand.

What do you think about the use of formal business tone versus an informal tone in digital communications, whether it is an email or a webpage? Include your comments below.



Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

One thought on “The Formal Business Voice is Dead – The Content Wrangler

  1. I’m totally with you, Danielle. Davies says that “you want clear, straight to the point, no fluff, no mucking around.” Well, she can have that without resorting to an overtly casual or personal tone. She can have that in-between level that you’re talking about.

    I appreciate technical writing that doesn’t sound personal or folksy: it reassures me that the writer knows what they’re talking about, that I can trust them to get me through the rough spots. When I need help doing something, I guess I don’t want a hug. I want a sure hand to guide me.

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