Writing to be heard

My old photographer mate Jay has noticed that I write in “spoken English”.

Stil, you write as you sound, or you sound as you write. Every paragraph has the voice of radio.

Yes, Jay, you’re right. And it’s deliberate. I write so that my words can be read aloud and “sound good”.

I don’t know whether there’s any evidence to back it up, but my theory is that when people read the speech centres of their brain are also active. If so, then I reckon the communication will be more effective, more memorable, if it triggers the natural rhythms of good speech.

When I’m writing, I’m usually sounding out the words in my head. When it comes to the final draft. I usually read it aloud — several times as I polish it.

And to make sure I get the “tone” right, I sometimes use a trick that Keith Conlon taught me. I imagine a specific person sitting across the desk from me. It all helps to write in a more natural style, as one human talking with another.

6 Replies to “Writing to be heard”

  1. That’s the golden rule of writing, isn’t it? If it sounds funny when read aloud, rephrase it. On the other hand, I rarely work hard to edit anything I write on my tumblelog these days. Depends on your level of seriousness when ‘blogging’ I guess.

    But I agree, you read well because you keep things short, concise and without unnecessary long words.

  2. @Alex Willemyns: That probably is a golden rule of writing, yes. Is this taught in schools? English was poorly taught in my school “back then” — little about the art and craft of writing, too much about “dead white men”.

    I do tend to find that as I re-draft I’m mostly removing words, not adding them.

    As I re-draft, I remove more words than I add.

  3. @Stilgherrian and Richard: It’s funny — no I didn’t I learn that in school, but yes I did learn that from George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. I got the Penguin release George Orwell: Selected Essays last year and have read it four times since (once each school term).

    English is taught terribly in Queensland. Not specifically my teacher, who is probably the best English teacher I’ve ever had, but the curriculum. Still, you make your own luck.

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