Freelance Blog + writing

Guest Post: Try a Little Dialogue

By Diana Hardin

Every now and then when my son is reading a book for school and he gets tired, he’ll ask me if I’ll read him a chapter, which I sometimes do. Last month he was reading this great book by Beverly Cleary called Dear Mr. Henshaw. The plot is about a little boy who becomes pen pals with a famous author, and it’s written in the form of letters from the boy to the author and back again. It was a great read, especially for a fourth-grade boy, but it started me thinking about the art of dialogue and writing.

I’ve always enjoyed reading letters. What’s the attraction? Letters are fun because they allow us to eavesdrop on someone else’s conversation—without getting into trouble. Letters are personal. People say things in letters that they wouldn’t say face to face. This is the same reason we like chat rooms and IMs. We’re not as anonymous in a letter as we are in a chat room, but all the same, no one can see our face, and that makes opening up a dialogue somehow easier. So I began thinking about what would happen if we freelancers used more dialogue in our writing.

There’s a lot of talking that comes from freelancers each day, whether it’s through text messaging, tweeting, or blogging, but little of it really passes for conversation. Blogs come the closest, with their ability to actually respond. As Scott London points out in his article, “The Power of Dialogue,” the benefit of dialogue, as the Greeks understood it, is that the sum of our parts equals a better whole. When we practice dialogue, we end up with a more well-rounded idea, because you fill in my gaps in understanding, and I fill in yours. And shouldn’t a better idea lead to better writing?

So here are a few suggestions for incorporating a few principles of dialogue into your writing:

Keep your focus. One of the basics of composition is that all writing seeks to persuade. No matter what type of writing you’re doing, you are trying to persuade someone of something. We all know this, but we tend to forget it when we’re in the middle of a piece. Always be mindful of who you’re talking to and what you’re talking about.

Find common ground. Your audience doesn’t have to agree with you (in fact, it’s more interesting if they don’t), but there needs to be something that makes you stand out from the dozens of other people who are speaking to them throughout the course of their day. By the way, this is true for editors as well as readers!

Write responsibly. With every piece you write, ask yourself what might be the consequence of someone listening to you. Granted, some writing is meant to be lighthearted; however, whether you’re writing copy, a blog, or a feature article, you are in a position to speak to others. This should never be taken lightly. You may not always hear the response, but you do have an audience, and if they’re moved, they will respond.

In today’s age of diversity and broadness, we also find a lot of division. Adding a little dialogue may be one simple way of coming together as a community and a society.

Diana Hardin is a freelancer who writes at The Indigo Inkwell and lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband, two children, cat and dog.

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Guest Post: Try a Little Dialogue {writing}