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Don’t write how you talk. Just write like you talk.

My previous post on writing as you talk has been wildly successful in the comments department (relatively, of course), so I’d like to clarify for a moment.

Of course you don’t write exactly as you talk. That would be stupid.

I’m not saying you write in slang, or phonetically, or with all the ums and aghs and misconstructions.

But you do need to achieve a conversational tone of voice. I’m not saying that’s easy. But I do maintain that a lot of people, especially educated people, find it hard to write because they come over all formal.

Don’t believe me? Go read just about anything written by almost anyone who works in a big corporation. Or in the public sector.

Of course you don’t write exactly as you talk. That would be stupid.

I make a good living as a copywriter, writing for organisations whose people can’t communicate with the written word. And the main reason is they feel compelled to use jargon, to write sentences with two dozen clauses in, and seem intent on making everything as incomprehensible as possible. Ask them what they want to say, and they tell you.

And who’s to blame for this state of affairs? I say again, it’s our education systems. Once people leave school and college, they need to relearn how to write, making it more conversational and less stuffy.

(There’ll be more on this topic. I can tell).

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Markus November 26, 2007, 8:27 pm

    Again, very informative Simon! I guess it’s not only your education system. Here in Germany it’s similar.

    With all the literature you get to read it’s hard to think “normal” again 😉

  • Guy Chocensky November 26, 2007, 10:54 pm

    “And who’s to blame for this state of affairs? I say again, it’s our education systems. Once people leave school and college, they need to relearn how to write, making it more conversational and less stuffy.”

    I don’t think it’s quite so simple as that, although the disintegration of the ED system is certainly part of the larger problem

    Kids don’t learn to think critically as their forefathers, either.

    And where should they have learned to think critically? In school via exercises like expository writing.

    The gobblety-gook many of us think passes as coherent thought — even if it were written perfectly to reflect that thinking — just won’t make sense.

    GIGO, you know? Garbage in garbage out.

    We are becoming a society of ignorant peasants, folks, but I don’t think you can lay the blame entirely on the educational system.

    No educational system is every going to be healthier than the society from which it is drawn.

    No matter how well anyone might or might not be able to express their thoughts textually, if their thoughts are confused, their writing will reflect that confusion.

    We’re really putting the (writing skills) cart before the (thinking skills ) horse, here, I think.

  • Jazz December 2, 2007, 11:49 pm

    I am a high school student, and I cannot agree with you more that kids are learning to write without any room for personality or style. I learned to write outside of school, and in fact did not formally learn how to write an essay, paper, or creative piece until a few years ago. However, the ‘system’ did not detract from my potential like it does to so many others because I was already comfortable writing and had a distinct style, tone, and narrative voice. I hate English class because we learn to write with in a rigid outline of sentence order. Under educational standards, there is no such thing as style, composition, or voice. We learn one kind of sentence structure, one set of grammar rules, and though we read classic and modern pieces alike with greatly varied styles, teachers rarely pause to reflect upon this fact.

    It isn’t that students cannot think critically, use a distinct voice, or develop style — it’s that the educational system squashes this potential to ensure that we can write an essay with the right number of sentences.

    You have written that a way to improve oneself as a writer is to be audacious. The education system is incredibly effective at sniffing out the beginnings of audacity and suppressing it, churning out millions of individuals per year who are, more often than not, grudging and bland writers.

    Thank you for offering a refreshing opinion on education these days. Though I still have several years of high school left to endure, via uplifting writers’ blogs like this one I can grow as a writer and be audacious enough to rebel against formulaic writing.