Should You Write Like You Talk?
Do you write like you talk? With video, social media, WIFI, TV, VOIP, texting, emoticons, and the third hand (smart phones); communications options and preferences are nearly unlimited.
For example, I do not like to text (fingers are clumsy). I love to talk; my daughter prefers Skype but I have WhatsApp. She refuses (can you blame her?) to download one more program and prefers texting to talking. We have settled on chatting through Skype. Amazingly, I can leave a video message on Skype or an audio message on Whats App. Communication systems are taking our languages for a ride—and each is undergoing a transformation.
Texting and emoticons have created a new language of its own, so when writing professionally, does that make it okay to write like you talk?
Write Like You Talk
As a writing and publishing coach, I nearly always encourage my clients to write like they talk. On a basic level, writing for publishing is a three-part process. Writing, editing, and proofreading. Ideally, the editor and proofreader are hired, since editing, and proofreading need a different skill set, as well as a fresh pairs of eyes.
The most important aspect of writing is having something to say and saying it passionately. This means the story takes priority over spelling, grammar, formatting, and all that “nonsense” we learned in college or high school English. That is not what real writing is about. That is the craft of writing, but the art of writing is telling your story. I have created a video for my students to understand this concept. Read my article about the art and craft of writing entitled, Are You Writing from Your Heart?
Many new writers are intimidated by the thought of writing perfectly—or some concept of what they were taught that perfect writing is. The problem with this is that the craft of writing can stifle the art of writing. So when I help writers make the journey from writer to published author, the first step is finding their art; and I always tell them to Write like you talk, just to get the story flowing! The craft comes later, and can actually be done by a hired hand.
I Stand Corrected
Should you write like you talk? There is always the exception to the rule. Here comes Oscar (name changed); a former client who recently returned as a private client. He is highly creative and shoots out thoughts like lightning bolts in a sky clouded by his multiple streams of consciousness. Therefore, his writing requires a fair amount of editing to make his meaning clear to the reader. Today, in our session, I nearly said it: “Oscar, just write like you talk!” But I bit my tongue; as Oscar is the exception to the rule.
Oscar is a highly intelligent CEO with limited time; therefore, editing is required in order for him to meet writing deadlines. This is not a bad thing. Busy people with a story to tell with no time to tell it, hire ghost writers. They may speak their story into a recording device, which is translated into words and rewritten by an expert writer. Many great books have been “written” and published this way.
For the next phase in teaching Oscar to write, we will work on the aspect of his writing as a tool for communicating important and profound ideas. This means eliminating his stream of consciousness writing, which will need a focused mindset; along with some rules to translate flow of talking into basic writing protocol. Here are some basic rules to make your writing easy to reach out to the general reader. Do not use contractions such as don’t, won’t, isn’t, didn’t, doesn’t, etc. These are OK to use when talking, and when quoting someone, you may use them.
Do not use contractions such as don’t, won’t, isn’t, didn’t, doesn’t, etc. These are OK to use when talking, and when quoting someone, you may use them.
Always use complete sentences. A complete sentence includes a verb and a noun or pronoun with a period at the end.
Avoid slang. Do not use words such as “freaked out,” “hot chick” “freakin”; local dialects, such as “ended up,” aint, or y’all; or cuss words unless quoting someone. Use these in quotes only if needed to create a character or personality; as these do not come across as good writing.
The uses of em dashes—and dot, dot, dot … are mental shortcuts and make the reader feel dizzy. Observe how this next sentence makes you feel. Think the thought through and clearly communicate what you want to say using a complete thought–not broken up by dashes—a shortcut which does not clearly communicate what you mean. Write in clear, cohesive sentences.
Eliminate the word “it” whenever you can. Sometimes you will find it difficult to write without the word “it” but when you can drop this word in most cases, your writing will improve at least 50% on the spot! “It” is an overused pronoun, and is handy when talking, but when writing can be confusing. Most of the time, although the writer knows what “it” means, the reader will not easily follow what “it” is.
If following these rules seems to shut your writing down, then break the rules; and simply write like you talk! Then, after you write your piece, go through and quickly clean it up by using these basic guidelines.
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