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Do-it-yourself Pitfalls

Writing as You Speak: Writer’s Boon, Reader’s Bane

 

To write as you speak can be a great way to get your thoughts down. It can also be helpful in overcoming writer’s block. Many people swear by it as the best approach to writing. Their readers are seldom as happy, though. Indeed, writing as you speak can be a communication disaster. This article makes three arguments against writing as you speak and prescribes the qualities to look for in a professional wordsmith.

1. Good writing is economical.

Generally, we use many more words to express ourselves in spoken English than we do in written English. So, if you write as you speak, you probably demand more of your readers’ time and patience than necessary - while taking up more paper or screen space than necessary. Writing as you speak can be uneconomical and tempt your readers to skim.

 

2. Good writing is crafted for readers.

When we speak, we generally use inflections of voice, body language, and responses to listener feedback to help us communicate effectively. Yet, when you transcribe what you would say to a listener, you preserve the words only. Thus, your message suffers information loss.

This information loss can make your writing more difficult for your readers to follow - especially those who do not know you well enough to imagine your characteristic voice inflections and body language as they read. Thus, writing as you speak yields incomplete communication that leaves the reader to compensate for missing interpretive support. This can cause misunderstanding.

 

3. Good writing serves a diverse audience.

Your individuality affects the choices you make as a speaker and as a writer, as well as your needs as a reader. Most people are not conscious of the extent of this influence most of the time. Yet, it limits a writer's effectiveness in ways that a self-aware expert wordsmith can address.

When we speak, we reflect our individual cognitive (thinking and learning) tendency or style. The four basic cognitive styles:

  • abstract sequential.

  • abstract random.

  • concrete sequential.

  • concrete random.

When you write as you speak, you could have only a 25% chance of communicating in sync with any given reader’s way of thinking. Thus, writing as you speak might not serve best your readers who do not share your cognitive style - possibly a large portion of them.

Not only does every person tend to one of these four basic cognitive styles, but each of us also has other tendencies for processing information. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test indicates 16 different personality types.

Likewise, Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) identifies and ranks four ways in which all of us process information:

  • visual.
  • kinesthetic.
  • auditory.
  • audio-digital.

NLP testing can reveal any writer's ranking of the four information processing styles. Myers-Briggs testing can identify any writer as having one of 16 personality types. Also, every individual tends to one of the four cognitive styles noted above. These are but three ways to identify how we choose to present information to others and how we prefer information presented to us. In short, every speaker brings individual biases to his or her own writing.

Except for people who have the self-awareness that such testing provides and who pay attention to how their individuality affects their writing, these biases remain invisible to most people most of the time. Because of these biases, the effectiveness of anybody's writing is limited - more or less limited with each reader according to how much or how little the reader shares the biases of the writer.

 

Good writing accommodates its readers.

When you write to somebody who knows you well or who happens to be similar to you in how you process information, then writing as you speak could succeed like nothing else. However, when you need to communicate important information effectively, the odds are against you if you write as you speak.

A professional wordsmith who is not only self-aware but also knows how to accommodate specific, diverse audiences can avert the problems caused by individual bias and serve any audience more effectively. Such a writer crafts the message economically with the awareness that words are the only means to communicate in writing.

tip: Get a wordsmith who approaches writing as a skilled craft.
Do not write as you speak or waste your precious time trying to write like a professional wordsmith. When you really need your audience to understand, have a professional wordsmith - an Articulate wordsmith - craft your message for you in service to your whole audience.

 

- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.

 

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