Saturday, December 19, 2009

Say It Like You Mean It

By Jodi Marie Robinson

 “I couldn’t help but cough as a cloud of dust particles danced in a stream of light beaming through my basement window.”

Okay. So, that’s an overly fancy way for saying, “I was unpacking a box covered in dust and, when I brushed it off into the air, it made me cough.” Now, we could still work on that sentence, but let’s move on to my main point.

One challenge in writing is saying what we really mean. I know, at times, I’m guilty of it. So, how can we avoid overly fancy phrases and expressions that just complicate our writing? I have one simple tip that may help. Give a speech. What? You may ask. But I hate speeches, talks, anything that resembles public speaking. Now hold on! I’ve had a lot of experience as a public speaker. I’ve given presentations in front of small groups, as well as hundreds of people, and one thing I do know is that, when you have to “speak” or “say” something out loud, you tend to simplify your message. You say it like you mean it.

Take for example the example I used earlier. If I take my hands off the keyboard and ask myself, “What am trying to say?” And then I say it out loud, my message becomes more clear. I talk about the dust on the lid and how when I brushed it off, I coughed. Talking about dust particles dancing in a stream of light, well, we don’t talk that way. So, we should be careful not to write that way. It doesn’t mean we can’t describe dust as dancing in the light, but there better a good reason for it otherwise it’s just flowery writing and we’re guilty of not saying it like we mean it.

When you’re pretending to give a speech, you use your hands. (I'm part Italian, so I can't help myself.)  You also pause. You inflect. All of this can help you as you craft your words and your message. So, let your hands fly across the keyboard and write like you talk. Let your ideas hit the page freely without “writing” them.  Try it and let me know how it works for you. You can always go back, edit, change, and improve your word choice. The key is getting the right idea in thebeginning so you can communicate effectively.

Coming from someone who talks a lot, the best advice I can give is: Don’t complicate the message. Just say it. (Now the challenge is to take my own advice.)

Oh, and one more thing. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Is that clear enough? See you in 2010!

All the best,

Jodi Marie Robinson


Rachelle said...

Great tips! Loved your examples.

Kimberly Job said...

Great idea. I never thought about saying things aloud, but that makes so much sense.

Diony said...

Thanks Jodi for the great reminder! I know when I'm writing dialog I often speak it aloud--that helps to keep it sounding "real".