Should I or Shouldn’t I?

Should an author/blogger write like they speak, or should they use more formal language when writing?

Several people who’ve read my book, A Different Way of Seeing: A Blind Woman’s Journey of Living an ‘Ordinary’ Life in an Extraordinary Way, have told me they love the fact I write just like I speak – that they can almost hear me telling the stories I use in my book. I’ve always taken it as a compliment.

So I’m sure you can imagine how startled I was when one of the presenters in the Women in Publishing Summit I’ve been attending online made it quite clear she didn’t think it was good practice.

To go back a step, the Women in Publishing Summit was a week-long online event covering diverse topics about the writing, publishing and marketing of books, highlighting some of the amazing women in the industry. I’ve been slowly working my way through the presentations and have found it hugely valuable for me as both a book writer and blogger.

But, back to the point…

My first response when I heard the presenter’s comment was to shake my head vehemently and reach for the track forward button. But then I thought well, let’s hear if she expands on her comment. And, of course, she did… and I’m glad I stuck around to listen.

What she said (and yes, I’m paraphrasing) is that we tend to pepper our spoken communication with filler words. Anyone who’s gone through the Toastmasters programmes will be familiar with the concept of filler words when we speak – they’re those words that we habitually use when we want to give our brains a moment to catch up. They’re typically words like “just”, “Like”, “actually”, “so” and well, I’m you can fill in a few of your particular favourites.

Her point was that these words don’t add to the value of what we’re saying – if anything they detract from it. As an editor she spends a lot of time removing these filler words to bring out the power of the writer’s message.

I understand what she’s saying, and agree to a certain point. However, I also feel that filler words can be part of our writing style and if, like me, we wish for our writing to have a conversational tone, then they can work as long as they’re not overused.

So, while I feel the casual tone of my writing style works for me and makes my stories easier to read, I’ve found myself being more critical of my writing and removing a few of the filler words. And yes, I’m becoming hyper-aware of how often I drop the words “Just” and “Actually” into a sentence!

As I begin thinking about my next big writing project -ghost-writing a book for Fiji – it’s going to be interesting to see how much what I’m learning from the Women in Publishing Summit will add to the process.

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