Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Write How You Talk

We all talk funny. The English language is full of idioms and words with double meanings. Different parts of the country use words differently as well. When we write for publication, however, we are writing for a much broader audience than most of us talk to. If we publish a blog post, it has potential to be read across the world, not just by the people in our state or county here in the USA.

In light of this, I teach my writing students to never write how they talk. We have to write in a more uniform way in order to be understood by the most readers. We don't want our readers to have to work at reading our writing; it needs to flow effortlessly. If you write how you talk, it will not flow effortlessly for the reader, even if it seems to for you as the writer.

The bottom line is that writing for publication means you write for others, not yourself. Your motivation does not have to change, you can still get your point across, but you need to do it in the best way possible.

Here's an example:

Harry thought that he could go to the store and get all of his groceries in one trip without having any problems with traffic.

Rewritten, it looks like this:

Harry thought he could go to the store and get all his groceries in one trip, avoiding traffic problems.

I eliminated "that" and "of" from the first sentence and streamlined the comment about traffic, making it flow better.

Write how the reader will better understand, not how you talk. We use "that" and "of" quite often when we talk, but we can eliminate them in 99% of our writing.

When we talk, we use voice inflections and body language to help express our thoughts. In writing, we don't have voice inflections or body language to depend on, so we must make sure our writing, itself, is clear, free from assumed understanding, yet not cluttered.

Write well.
Write often.
Just write.

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