Not so long ago, most people viewed writing as a formal activity not related to talking. In the last 20 years, that idea has pretty much gone the way of the trolley car–while there are still some around, most remaining ones can only be found in museums.
In today’s hurry up, chat and text world, many people have dropped their guards when writing, much to the chagrin of many retired English teachers. Besides writing for a living, I also teach others how to write as part of my business. One thing I’m constantly telling my students is to write as they talk.
Today, good writing is conversational writing–writing that reads and sounds like good conversation, only the writer makes it go where he or she wants it to. To get my students started on this road to good communication, I tell them to pretend their reader is sitting across the table from them and then just tell the reader their story–only on paper.
Recently, I’ve gotten to know a local newspaper reporter. During the week, he reports on the humdrum details of our county court system. But on Saturdays, he gets to write a column where he can express himself on whatever he pleases. I got to read one of his columns for the first time last week. He writes in a witty style but seems to want to let everyone know that he is a WRITER by including lots of more sophisticated words than he would ever use in conversation on the same subject.
A few days later, he sent me an E-mail in which he told another story. It had that same wry sense of humor his column had but without all the big words. In other words, he was speaking right to me, the reader, not past me the way a lot of writers think they have to do. And why should writing an E-mail message be any different than say writing an article or a story?
My point is that if more people just wrote as they talked, we’d have much better communication all around.