Can you talk on paper?

Sometimes frustrated writers forget there’s any connection between speaking and writing. Most people are more talented at one skill or the other, but at its best, writing sounds like a natural speaking voice, preferably your own. Try playing with the connection more often in your drafts and your revisions.

If you’re more of a talker than a writer, feel free to record yourself and transcribe—instant writing.

If writing comes more naturally, then you probably script a speech to find out what you want to say.

Your spoken vocabulary includes only a fraction of the words you understand. Have you ever found yourself writing a word you don’t even know how to pronounce? You’ve never said it aloud, nor even heard it, yet it pops up at the perfect moment. If you picked up a new word from reading it somewhere, go ahead, double-check its meaning and pronunciation, and try it out.

You can only talk as long as you have breath. That means your spoken sentences are probably shorter than your written ones. In print, it’s possible to run on for pages and forget there’s a real person listening. Reading your work aloud prevents that.

Savor the differences, and use each skill to enrich the other. If a passage feels ponderous and convoluted, try explaining the idea aloud to simplify it and get to the point. If your writing feels dull and flat, maybe a worn conversational phrase could be replaced by one juicy word, and maybe some of those short sentences could be combined here and there to vary your cadence.

How do you shift between writing and speaking in your creative process?


Text © Gwyn Nichols 2010


  1. Nice post Gwyn, very good tactical ideas that all writers need to hear from time to time. Even if we’ve overcome that block before, no guarantee that the demon will not rear its ugly head again. Thanks!


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