Thursday, June 14, 2012

Write it Like I Say It

My sister’s mother-in-law wanted her life story written “exactly as I tell it to you.” My question is: Is this possible?  Technically the answer is “yes” but in reality it does not really work that easily. Writing is not speech written down. Take into account these differences in speaking and writing. It may help you to decipher why it is often hard to write.


  • Speaking is not learned; everybody speaks without instructions.
  • Speech is usually spontaneous and is peppered with idioms and dialects.
  • Speaking is casual, often in a more relaxed atmosphere “Wanna meet for coffee?”
  • We are able to judge the listener’s response and adjust our conversation accordingly.
  • We can rectify misunderstandings or mistakes immediately and add more information.
  • Tonal connotations and pauses convey meanings that are difficult to replicate in writing.
  • Conversations are most often not recalled verbatim.
  • Content is different in speaking. We use “Um…” “Like…”and “Ya’ know…”
  • Complete sentences are not necessary in speech.
  • Speaking is more expressive and accompanied by shrugs, varied facial expressions or a raised eyebrow. We get clues about what we said via the listener’s body language.
  • Little or no time is needed to prepare to talk to a friend or a colleague.
  • We shift our language to fit the situation, e.g., more formal in a work environment and more casual in social situations.
  • Using charm, charisma and wit; a speaker can say little of substance and receive generous applause.
  • Speaking requires use of the mouth and ears. Conversing involves at least one other person and adds the use of the eyes.


§         Is a learned process; it does not come naturally.
§         Writing is a labor intensive process.
§         Proper grammar and sentence structures are required; few contractions are used.
§         We have one opportunity to make our point.
§         We use more words to make this point because we must describe details and support every aspect of it.
§         Writers pre-identify their reading audience and tailor the writing style and words accordingly.
§         Complete sentences are composed with a more complex structure.
§         Writing can be in the passive voice.
§         Writing depends upon a more precise choice of words and uses punctuation marks in place of pauses.
§         Our work can be read again and dissected; it can be visited with complete accuracy a year, ten or one hundred years later.
§         Reading takes different and higher cognitive skills than speaking and listening.
§         Writing requires hands and eyes and involves only one person at a time.

The final conclusion is that writing is much harder and more complex than speaking. But you knew that.

1 comment:

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

The way we write vs the way we speak can often be very different..When communicating with someone I always felt I could express myself better through the written word, rather than the spoken word, but storytelling is another matter - as you said, much harder writing the story than speaking the story