This was a strange, dire, huge event.
Something comes over most people when they start writing. The sentence structure and even the words are different.
No one uses "pen" as a verb in spoken English.
The last straw for me was a sentence I read a couple days ago: The mercurial Spaniard himself declared: But just imagine calling Picasso "the mercurial Spaniard" when talking to a friend. Even one sentence of this would raise eyebrows in conversation. And yet people write whole books of it.
Ok, so written and spoken language are different.
Does that make written language worse? If you want people to read and understand what you write, yes. Written language is more complex, which makes it more work to read. They use different words, certainly. But even those they use no more than necessary. And in my experience, the harder the subject, the more informally experts speak.
Informal language is the athletic clothing of ideas. And there are a handful of writers who can get away with using fancy language in prose. But for nearly everyone else, spoken language is better. It seems to be hard for most people to write in spoken language.
After a while this filter will start to operate as you write. This trick may not always be enough. After writing the first draft, try explaining to a friend what you just wrote.
Then replace the draft with what you said to your friend. People often tell me how much my essays sound like me talking. The fact that this seems worthy of comment shows how rarely people manage to write in spoken language.
Thanks to Patrick Collison and Jessica Livingston for reading drafts of this.Check out Speaking In Tongues by Talking Heads on Amazon Music. Stream ad-free or purchase CD's and MP3s now on heartoftexashop.com Mass surveillance is the intricate surveillance of an entire or a substantial fraction of a population in order to monitor that group of citizens.
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You will have to write away for another copy of the instruction manual.