Wil Wheaton recently posted something to Medium, and it’s well worth reading on its own merits. But one passage jumped out at me in particular, and it’s one crucial key to speechwriting:

Please note that I wrote this to be spoken/performed, and it may not translate 100% to the written form.

The piece itself (both as a speech and an article) could do a lot of good in encouraging people to be kinder and more thoughtful, and to avoid cruel, bullying behaviour. But that little preamble could do a lot, too.

Wheaton 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 read Wheaton’s piece. It’s lovely, and it’s a quick read. One passage:

If you’re weird, don’t try and hide it?—?find people who love your weirdness.And if you can’t find anyone who shares the things you like, don’t worry. They’re out there, I promise you. Right now you probably feel like you’re immortal?—?and that’s wonderful, so did I. But the curse of immortality is that time stretches out forever, and the moment you’re in right now seems eternal. It’s not. This will all end sooner than you know it, and be a distant memory.

And if someone else is doing something that seems weird to you, and it isn’t hurting anyone?—?let them be. It seems like these days, it’s easier than ever to be a bully and just get away with it?—?or not even realize how hurtful you’re being. it’s easy to forget that there’s a person on the other side of the screen.

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