Posted by Word Camel on July 23, 2004
In Reply to: Write as we speak? posted by Lotg (OZ) on July 22, 2004
: While responding to the Dominion thread it occurred to me that I tend to write as a I speak. There is some censorship, cos if I'm feeling really lazy, I usually drop a few swear words when I'm speaking (as mentioned in that thread) - so you've been spared. But I notice that generally I do write as I speak, although as I am a technical writer (or documentation specialist if you prefer), I can do a sort of schizophrenic backflip and change my writing style when required for the professional documents I produce. The reason I do this, is because the audience for those documents will be greater and more varied, so I have to ensure that the documents can be clearly understood by a broad range of people.
: However, I still write as I speak when producing internal reports, etc. Because I'm a country girl, I suppose I speak that way, and thus write that way. I find this disarms most 'professional' people, gets their attention, and almost always works my way.
: But I notice that most people I work with anyway, do not write as they speak. They do that schizo thing I mentioned before and their reports, memos, etc. are written in a way they would never speak. I recognise, that part of the reason is that once in writing, if you're not careful, it can be used against you.
: But is this insecurity, or is it simply that the written word highlights flaws - or both? It's funny that when many of us speak, we're quite relaxed about saying things like, 'cos, 'gonna' or 'lemme', but we wouldn't dare write it. We'd write 'because', 'going to' or 'let me'. Now again, I have to admit to some censorship, because I wouldn't include the above slang words in any professional document either. Furthermore, even forgetting laziness such as those examples, when many of us write, we actually construct our sentences differently to the way we would verbalise them. That's where I don't censor. My sentences are constructed in the same way I would say them.
: I've also noticed that some people simply can't, or can't bring themselves, to write as they speak. They MUST change their mode. Why do many of us have two standards and cannot cross the line? The written word and the spoken word? Was writing as we speak beaten out of some of us at school?
I think part of the reason we don't always write as we speak because we want to be clear. Verbal communication has inflection and tone to help to convey meaning. I also think written language has a beauty all its own. It conveys things we might think but probably wouldn't actually say. "Shall I compare Thee to a summer's day?..." I wonder if anyone would ever utter those words in the course of conversation? They're still lovely though.
I've also noticed some people are intimidated by having to write things down and are overly formal as a result. I had an insecure boss in the UK who would edit my business letters so that they ended with the phrase "Assuring you of my most sincere desire to be of service at all times". I had a deal with the secretary to change it back to "Yours sincerely," before it went out.
Also, 'cos', 'gonna' and "lemme' aren't actually words. If someone wrote me a serious communication using those (that is, not a personal letter or email where they were using it tongue in cheek), I'd assume they were poorly educated.