Write like you talk

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are important tools for a writer. Any writer of any age. However, they are just part of what makes a good writer. If we overly stress them, the writing tends to sound stuffy and dull. If we don’t pay enough attention to them it is distracting and makes for a bad impression no matter how well you know your topic. The trick is to find a good balance.

Finding a good balance in writing has one simple trick. Write like you talk. A word of caution. In these days of text messages and “phonetic” spellings, the tools of writing should take a bit more importance than in the past. If you have bad language then you should spend even more time refining your writing but, it should still flow similarly to how you speak.

How do we instill good writing habits in kids? By instilling good speech habits. Don’t allow poor speech to become a habit. Be a good example and if you notice yourself having bad language, this is a good time to clean yourself up. Filthy and poor language are an insult to God as well as those around you. Don’t be afraid to ask someone else to clean up their language around you and your kids. I had to ask my Dad to do this. He didn’t even realize he was doing it, the bad language had become a habit recently.

I wouldn’t allow “phonetic” spellings popular on IM to be used at all in elementary school. These abbreviated spellings are part of the reason why kids are having such a hard time with basic language skills in schools today. They only confuse proper spelling and reading. Let them try to spell a word, but correct any mistakes. They need to learn how to figure out proper spellings using real phonics and spelling rules before they can figure out abbreviated spellings.

A good grammar curriculum will help improve both writing and speech. They can not be isolated. Speaking is a good test of writing. Read your writing aloud and see how it sounds. If word choice or subject/verb agreement sound strange when spoken, they are probably wrong. If you automatically say something different from what you wrote, compare them and see if you made a mistake. However, this only works if you have good speech.

So, good speech habits and genuine phonics are keys to good writing. What you write about is up to you.

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6 Responses

  1. That is very true. When I read writing on the internet which is full of spelling/grammatical mistakes, I either leave a comment telling the writer to fix up their language, or I just click ‘back’. In these days of spell-check and text language, the importance of language skills are being undermined.

  2. Ooops. Happened to stop by while “Tag Surfing” on WordPress – and noticed that “Grammar” is spelled wrong (Grammer) in the first line. (I know it was just a slip of the fingers,since you spelled it correctly in the next-to-last paragraph). (-; Same with “phonitic” in the third-to-the-last paragraph. Just thought you’d like to know, given the topic of your post – which was a good one! I’m a professional writer and blogged about “the secret life of words revealed” a few days ago. You might find the perspective interesting. Thanks for upholding high standards of writing for our young people. It matters a great deal! http://www.rachelsnyder.wordpress.com

  3. HI, Oh a whole, we are in agreement. But writing as you would speak, even if you speak properly will not teach your students how to get published. And it is more than likely as we turn into a society of information instead of industry, many of your students will have extensive writing in their jobs.

    I am appalled at all the grammar and language mistakes that I find on form letters from major companies and of all places TV. I have heard the most ridiculous things from people with degrees in communication.

    Maybe it is because I am so profoundly dyslexic and have decided to make it happen anyways, that I spot so many errors. (I’m always watching for my own.) But what ever the reason, it is getting worse.

    When text messaging came out I figured it would die a quick death. We were introducing a text based technology in an illiterate nation. Who would have figured that this would be the result.

    But I digress, if we only write as we would speak, Dr Suess.

    My gift to you (By the way, the words “gift” and “presents” mean poison in German.) to brighten your day is a list of rules for writing. I don’t remember where I got it but here it is.

    RULES OF WRITING

    – Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.

    – Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

    – And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

    – It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

    – Avoid cliches like the plague.

    – Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

    – Be more or less specific.

    – Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

    – Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

    – No sentence fragments.

    – Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.

    – Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

    – Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it’s
    highly superfluous.

    – One should NEVER generalize.

    – Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

    – Don’t use no double negatives.

    – Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

    – One-word sentences? Eliminate.

    – Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

    – The passive voice is to be ignored.

    – Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words
    however should be enclosed in commas.

    – Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

    – Kill all exclamation points!!!

    – Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

    – Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas.

    – Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not
    needed.

    – Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”

    – If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.

    – Puns are for children, not groan readers.

    – Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

    – Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

    – Who needs rhetorical questions?

    – Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

    And finally…

    – Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

    Best wishes,
    John

  4. telcontarrulz,
    I must admit, I do the same thing.Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment rather than clicking ‘back’ on my blog.

  5. Rachel,
    I typed this article in a bit of a hurry. I thought I had changed all the spellings but, I guess a few slipped by. Just goes to show nobody’s perfect. Thanks for surfing by. I’ll check your post and fix mine when I get a bit more time later tonight.

  6. bestpi,
    That’s quite a list and depending upon the audience for the writing, I may or may not agree with you on all of them. Technical, legal, and most professional writing would need to hold fast to those rules though which makes them my least favorite to write or read *sigh*. Here’s another for you. Ain’t ain’t a word so I ain’t going to use it. The one popular misspelling that irks me the most is replacing s with z for plurals. Thanks.

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