Writing Like You Talk

Writing Like You Talk

If you have read any of my 400 or so public blog posts, then you probably have a good feel for my style. I try to make it really clear that my writing is not supposed to be super formal.

I write much like I speak. It’s fast. I try to be to the point.

My writing is often a stream of consciousness. Does that make for the best writing? Probably not. But writing like you speak is often the easiest way to develop a real, transparent voice and connect with your audience.

Of course, it depends on your audience. Spoken language, or this style of writing, is not always the best way to voice your opinions. But in many cases, it is a helpful measure to make your content easy to understand.

Paul Graham, in his essay, writes about this exact phenomenon. He says:

Here’s a simple trick for getting more people to read what you write: write in spoken language.

Often times, we are tempted to write more “eloquently” than we actually speak. This makes it hard for people to understand us.

Something comes over most people when they start writing. They write in a different language than they’d use if they were talking to a friend. The sentence structure and even the words are different. No one uses “pen” as a verb in spoken English. You’d feel like an idiot using “pen” instead of “write” in a conversation with a friend.

If you want people to read and understand what you write, yes. Written language is more complex, which makes it more work to read. It’s also more formal and distant, which gives the reader’s attention permission to drift. But perhaps worst of all, the complex sentences and fancy words give you, the writer, the false impression that you’re saying more than you actually are.

You don’t need complex sentences to express complex ideas. When specialists in some abstruse topic talk to one another about ideas in their field, they don’t use sentences any more complex than they do when talking about what to have for lunch. They use different words, certainly. But even those they use no more than necessary. And in my experience, the harder the subject, the more informally experts speak. Partly, I think, because they have less to prove, and partly because the harder the ideas you’re talking about, the less you can afford to let language get in the way.

Informal language is the athletic clothing of ideas.

Originally published at Jordan Gonen.

By jordangonen on January 9, 2017.

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Exported from Medium on February 17, 2018.