Writing Is Not Speaking

When you have a verbal conversation, context and body language fill in the gaps created by the more lax style of communication. Not so in writing. Clarity is muddied when the contractions and omissions of speech are translated to the page.

TOO INFORMAL FOR MY LIKING: Baker Frank Goldberg’s making croissants that have the whole Westside talking.
MORE CLEAR AND BETTER PRESENTED: Baker Frank Goldberg is making croissants that have the whole Westside talking.

Some of you might think this is picky. But consider your reader. She might linger for a beat, trying to decide if the ’s is there to show possession. It’s just a peculiar-enough usage to hold her up before moving on. These are the kinds of blemishes you want to avoid.

4 Responses to “Writing Is Not Speaking”
  1. ed says:

    The first sentence is not just “informal,” it showcases bad grammar at work. The apostrophe followed by an “s” on Frank Goldberg’s name makes the name possesive–not a contraction. In conversation, perhaps, the sentence might make sense; the “is” might be taken for granted. In writing, however, the “is” is a necessary component of this sentence, otherwise it simply doesn’t make sense.

    • Pat says:

      I don’t think of that as a hard-and-fast rule. I’d like to retain the right to write something like, “Eddie’s coming over.”

  2. Shay Q. says:

    A VERBAL conversation, eh? I wasn’t aware there was any other kind.

    I’m with you on the apostrophe thing, though. Fight the power!

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  1. […] a comment » Write with exactness; write exactly what you mean to convey. As I’ve noted before, the rules of communication are more lax when you’re speaking. But your reader only has the words […]

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