I’ve been writing for a long time. It’s not a secret that I’ve been writing since high school, and once upon a time I would discuss my writing with my father. The problem was that I spoke with him about other things as well, and I would speak to him like a daughter speaks to her father, not like a writer writing. Which follows that during nearly every conversation he would stop me and scold me about “dumbing down” my speech, and that the way I spoke would creep into my writing. And I would always answer with “I don’t write the way I speak.”

I still believe that is true. I use words when I’m writing that I would never use when speaking, and vice versa. While I will admit that occasionally the words I use when I write creep into my speech, I’ve never noticed it happening the other way around. I have a tendency to curse when I speak, especially with certain people—I don’t use that language in my books. I use a lot of slang when I speak (one of my favorite teachers used to say “Ain’t ain’t a word and you ain’t supposed to use it!”), but I don’t write that way—unless it’s specifically in dialogue.

Then again, I will sometimes use “big words” when speaking, and occasionally I’m asked what that word means. I explain and then I’m asked “why didn’t you just say that?” Well, I did! Most of the time, though, the person I’m conversing with is able to glean my meaning from the rest of my sentence. Contrary to what my father thought, I don’t have anyone in my life for whom I need to “dumb down” my speech (except maybe children, and even then, not so much).

Of course, I can’t speak for every writer. Maybe this is a problem for most of us. On the other hand, people in my life who know that I’m a writer take great delight in ribbing me when I make a verbal flub (the other day I commented that it seemed “humider” after it rained, and my boyfriend caught it right away—and laughed and laughed), so I find myself saying it a lot—“I don’t write the way I speak!” Thankfully that’s still true, or I’d probably never sell a book!
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Published on August 04, 2013 17:19 • 75 views • Tags: authors, dumbing-down, speech, writing

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