Writing to be heard
I hope Wil Wheaton’s piece does a lot of good in encouraging people to be kinder and more thoughtful, and to avoid cruel, bullying behaviour. But that little preamble of his could do a lot, too.
Because he acknowledges an often-overlooked fact: writing for the printed page is different from writing to be heard. There are things you can do in print (or in pixels) that often don’t work nearly as well spoken aloud: complex sentences, parenthetical asides, inverted structures.
And often, words written for the ear don’t come across nearly as well to the eye. Anything that relies on pauses, performance, shifts in pace or changes in tone will lose something in translation. That’s before you consider the grammatical cheating we often do with spoken-word communication. Sentence fragments, for instance. Depending on where the text appears, those may be jarring, or even look like errors.
If you’ve ever had to sit through a speaker whose speaking notes are actually an essay, you’ll know just how painful the media mismatch can be. And if you’re ever tempted to use a piece originally written for print as your speaking notes, please take mercy on your audience. Rewrite it, read it aloud a few times, and make sure you’ve truly adapted it for the spoken word.
Oh, and please do check out his article. It’s a quick, lovely read.