Words Matter: Writing Isn’t Just Frozen Speech

by Penny G. Mattern on November 20, 2012

While Randy is on hiatus recovering from a writing-induced ailment, some friends are taking up the slack. Today’s post is by  Penny Mattern.

English is an international language, and when you publish what you write on the web, that international English-speaking population is the audience who may well see your work, whether you intend it or not.

Writing is another level of language from merely speaking, and from hearing and understanding what is spoken.  If you just write down your everyday speech and call it finished, you likely won’t have reached an international level of writing English.

Translating speech directly into writing is what leads to such errors as “would of” rather than “would have.”  One hears “would’ve,” contraction of “would have,” in speech, and, in this error, writes it phonetically as “would of.”  This kind of error is frequent, and tells me that much of today’s writing is merely transcribed speech, and many errors I see are the result of phonetic transcription.

And certainly, you can write for an in-group or limited audience, and use all the in-group words and current expressions you like. While some members of the group will read and enjoy it, other readers will pass it by as of no interest, purely on the limitations of the language alone.

This is not mere snobbism (or not usually so).  It most often comes much more from the limited time people seem to feel they have nowadays, when faced with an overwhelming amount of reading matter on the web.  Good usage and correct spelling add to your credibility (your ideas are on their own).  Poor usage and spelling brings your credibility way down, and often lowers interest in considering your ideas.

Ought it to be that way? I can tell you only that that’s the way it is.

People don’t want to have to unwind a labyrinth of misspelled and misused words and phrases to try to figure out what you’re trying to say, unless they have some really compelling reason to do so.  You have to ‘make the cut,’ or they will move on to those who can. They will read the words of someone who can be clear and succinct, brief and compelling, quick and convincing.

Welcome to my editorial world of correct spelling and good usage, your weapons in the war of words.

— Penny Mattern




The Words Matter: Writing Isn’t Just Frozen Speech by Penny G. Mattern, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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