BY Vani IN For Writers
My Writing Journey: 101 Lessons I Learnt From My Mistakes (#1 Mistake) [Huffington Post]
Don’t Write the Way You Speak
Early on in my writing days, I posted a sample chapter from my book, The Recession Groom on www.youwriteon.com, a website that promotes budding writers. Excited, I opened my inbox to check my first review and was shocked to read this comment: ‘you are a gifted writer but remember, don’t write the way you speak.’ Needless to say, I was disappointed with the reviewer and with myself (honest reviews are a pleasure only when you’re appreciated— I’m cheeky enough to admit that!) Unfortunately, that didn’t change the facts and I realised the reviewer was right. Throughout my years of education, the medium of instruction was English, and yet, I found myself struggling with the language. The same jokes that cracked me up each time I heard them in Hindi, made no sense when translated in English. My French teacher had said to me once: ‘you will know you have learnt a language when you start dreaming in it’. This led me to my next question? Do I dream in English or in Hindi? The answer was clear. However, that didn’t mean I should start writing in Hindi. No. That would be a disaster, I knew. A Polish friend had once suggested that her language was one of the toughest in the world and I thought to myself, ‘well, I wish you knew how tough Hindi was!’
There was nothing for it. In subsequent drafts, I worked hard at correcting my faults and dispensed with the use of vernacular words. But the problem didn’t end there. When I started off, I also had a tendency to use filler words such as like, you know, I mean, you know what I mean etc., just so my dialogues would sound real (I wrote like I spoke, you see!). A common tendency is to use swear words as fillers which is fine but sometimes might be overdone and sound amateurish. Not only that, certain words become a part of our speech to such an extent, we don’t realise they are incorrectly used, for example, we are so used to writing ‘only’ at the end of cheques and bank slips, it’s become a part of our language and unknowingly, creeps at the end of our sentences. Examples- I was there only/ I was talking to her only/ I am at home only/ here only/ there only/I love you only.
I’m glad we have a huge support by way of forums such as stackexchange.com, www.wordreference.com, www.yourdictionary.com and languageandgrammar.com, where people can ask questions and get help. These forums are far better than asking friends and/or family members who maybe no better than us. In the end I’d just like to say, writing is a journey, we all make mistakes and learn. I hope to share some of my insights, so others don’t make similar mistakes.
- If you are a professional writer, remember to keep your use of dialect to the minimum.
- Don’t write like you speak but also, don’t write like you never speak.
- Be judicious about use of filler words (read: swear words).
- If nothing works, please consider writing a novel in your mother tongue, if you know what I mean!
Next blog: #2 Mistake: Verbosity Does not Make You a Good Writer
This post is also available to read on The Huffington Post. Click here.
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