Monday, June 4, 2007


Question: Should you write as you speak?

Answer: Yes and no.

Writing as you speak has certain advantages, including starting when you’re stuck. A conversational tone also draws the audience in. But recognize that certain characteristics of speaking will make your writing wordy and repetitious.

Of course, people don’t use the frequent “uh’s” and “y’knows” and, in young people, “like” that one hears in conversation. However, other conversational habits often carry over into writing when people write as they speak: the overuse of “there,” “it,” “get” and its variations, “thing,” and words needlessly repeated. In other words, “speakwrite.”

For me, when I taught writing, the real enemy of good written expression was not the dangling participle and use of passive voice that are fairly easy to teach, but “speakwrite,” the habit of carrying over into writing the bad habits of conversation, especially repetitiveness. “Speakwrite” works against producing thoughtful, precise and concise expression.

What to do? When you repeat words unnecessarily, try one of three solutions. 1. Drop it out. Try eliminating one of the repeated expressions. That technique sometimes works. I tend to repeat the word “that” unnecessarily and simply dropping one “that” often solves the problem. 2. Use a synonym. Occasionally works. 3. The third solution is probably the best, but it takes a little work. Rearrange your expression to eliminate the repeated word.

One other piece of advice: Try avoiding the use of “there,” “get” and “thing” altogether. Not only will you avoid repeating these expressions, but you will eliminate some dead language, and your expression will be more precise.


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