We often hear that a key to successful email marketing is writing like you are having a conversation with the recipient of your message. But what exactly does that mean?

What are the key characteristics of conversational writing? Read on to discover nine ways you can make your next message more conversational—and thus more engaging to your customers.

1. Tell a story

“The single most important part of a conversational writing piece is that it tells a definitive story,” says Your Dictionary.

“The story is fluid and delivered in such a way that the reader will feel as if he or she were talking with their best friend.” For more on storytelling, check out our post on the topic.

2. Express your personality

“If you only discuss your topic of expertise, you show yourself as a one-dimensional expert,” writes Copyblogger. “It’s kind of boring. Think about how you can inject your personality into your blog posts, emails, or sales copy.” Among their suggestions for doing that:

• Share the mistakes you’ve made so your readers can learn from them
• Use a personal anecdote to illustrate a point
• Tell readers why you’re on your mission to change the world

3. Don’t be afraid to use “you”

“Good salesmen and good conversationalists have a lot in common: they talk less about themselves and more about their listeners,” says Enchanting Marketing.

“To make your text engaging, check how often you’ve used the words I, we, me, and us. Now, count how often you’ve used the word you. Don’t blabber on about me, myself, and I. Engage your reader by addressing him with the word you.”

4. Break some rules

“Remember all those grammatical rules your English teacher taught you?” asks the SEOPressor blog. “Well, most of them aren’t applicable to conversational writing. For example, in conversational writing:

• You can end a sentence with a preposition
• You can start a sentence with and or but
• You can use contractions—in fact, you should use them often
• You don’t need to write complete sentences

5. Keep your sentences short

“Shorter sentences make it easier for your audience to quickly scan for information, so your sentences should be short—ideally less than 35 words,” says PrintWand.

“Break up your longer sentences using ellipses, commas and semicolons to visually separate ideas and increase scannability. If your sentence contains two or more complete thoughts, then use a period to chop it up into smaller full sentences.” For more tips about how to optimize the readability of your emails, see our post on the topic.

6. Listen to yourself—and others–talk

“If you really want to write more conversational content, start by listening to the conversations going on around you,” advises BlogMutt.

“Listen to the way you talk to others and the way others talk to you. Try to pick up on the nuances of verbal communication that can be applied to your writing style.

How do you begin your sentences? How do you structure them? Do you follow precise grammar rules? What kind of language do you use, and how does that change from conversation to conversation? Consider these questions as you go about your day, and think about ways you can incorporate that conversational tone into your writing.”

7. Write for a single reader

“Writing to a crowd kills your voice,” warns Enchanting Marketing. “Instead of thinking of all the people on your list, think of your favorite reader only. Imagine her opening your email. Picture her chuckling at your jokes and nodding along as she agrees with your points.

You only write to her. Your emails immediately become more engaging; and most people on your list will feel as if you’re emailing them personally; and if they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be on your list.”

8. Write for your audience (but beware of jargon)

“Use the language that they would use, and address the pain points or questions that you know they have,” advises Hubspot Academy.

At the time, however, beware of using jargon—even though it may be familiar to your audience. “Even if you’re writing for an audience of lawyers or auto mechanics, no one wants to read jargon. So, if you need to use a technical term or the lingo of that field, do so sparingly.”

9. Read it out loud before hitting “send”

“After you’ve written a paragraph, or an entire piece…read it aloud. Hear how it sounds when spoken, not just by your mind’s voice, but by your mouth’s voice,” advises Write To Done.

“When you read it aloud (or in your head as you’re writing), and you hear something that sounds stilted, go back and change it. Make it flow better, make it sound more casual, make it more like speech.”

Read More: Write Email Copy that Converts