Teaching new forum staff how to sound natural?

I’m just wondering how people have gone about teaching people who are new to forum work how to sound natural when talking online? I’m running into some issues where they’re used to using templates when talking to people in previous roles and I’ve never had to actually teach someone this. I learnt it by doing forum work for 15 years.

So does anyone have any advice on how you’ve gone about this or can you point me at any useful resources out there, style guides etc?


Hey Mark.

That’s super interesting.

Here are some thoughts:

  • how can you lead by example, is there a way you can show them previous forum posts perhaps highlighting good and bad examples. Perhaps create a collection to be referred to.
  • help them understand the why, if they understand the why you do things, then it can help them respond better. When I was handing things off (transferring knowledge) at Ministry of Testing we had a phrase that was used: “What would Rosie do?”. At the beginning people would literally ask me that question. In time they would ask themselves the question if they felt unsure.
  • often this stuff is down to lack of experience and confidence: help them level up, after all, it can be scary getting things wrong. Offer to review stuff before they publish, or create a peer review process.
  • what are they scared of and how can you make them feel ok about it: it kind of feels perhaps they are scared of something, perhaps help them see that the worst that could happen is probably not worth stressing about. Or maybe share things they should definitely avoid.
  • help them with challenging posts: maybe they get stuck on certain things, let them know it’s ok, allow them to pass it on to someone else, but to then actually look at how others would respond.
  • pair responding: to help build confidence, pair members up to brainstorm different ways to respond to stuff.

I don’t think any of this stuff needs to go on for too long and mostly it’s all about confidence building.


+1 to everything Rosie said!

Another thing you can do is proactively provide training that highlights how people are expected to communicate in your community, especially when they represent the brand. In the WordPress community we have a training course for “Writing in the WordPress Voice” - it isn’t specifically about forums, but it can be applied there as well as in any other context within the community.


Another tip to try is to have them voice dictate their initial draft. It might be easier to talk through what they want to say instead of type it. Voice dictation has come a long way and is pretty easy to use across a variety of word processing applications.