AEE 854: Should You Speak the Way You Write?

speak English write English

Do you write the same way you speak?

In your native language, there are probably certain variations of the language that you use to speak and to write.

Today we’ll show you how to know the difference between the kind of English that you should use when you speak versus when you write.

Let’s look at a question from our listener.

 

My name is Takashi, living in Tokyo.

I am a regular listener to All Ears English Podcast since the summer 2014.

The selection of topics and your rhythmical chats on the program are awesome, keeping me motivated to develop my English skill – actually feeling it’s getting better even than when I was in Scotland until three years ago. I am looking forward to a chance to meet you two to thank you face to face in the future.

Then, just one question here.

Do you agree that native English speakers use simple and light words such as I, you, we, they, it, this and  that at the initial position of the sentence in conversation much more often than in written form?

This is what an English conversation themed book published in Japan pointed out, which impressed me to start focusing on this aspect every time I listen to native English speakers’ conversations, of course, including your chatting on this podcast. And I noticed that it sure is true and works to avoid the top-heavy sentence too. In the case of Japan, the teenagers are required to read many English texts regarding complicating topics – religion, politics, philosophy etc – if they want to have the higher education. These topics are full of the top-heavy sentences, which I assume aims at making it look noble and elegant.

Also most Japanese students have no chance to learn the difference between the written English and the conversational English. These facts create the problem that many Japanese people tend to start English conversation with long and heavy words. It is like “Spending your weekend just on shopping and chatting with your friends wastes the time.”I think this sounds not natural and makes it difficult for native speakers to understand what they mean. My opinion is that it should be like “It would waste time if you spend your weekend just on shopping and chatting with your friends.” I believe that non-natives should have an opportunity to see the difference between written and verbal English including what I mentioned here. How do you think about it? I am really happy if you cover this topic in the future podcast episode.

Cheers

-Takashi

 

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First of all, yes, there is a difference between written and spoken English and yes, it does affect how we start the sentence.

In Japan some of the textbooks or English that you see might be written English translated into spoken English, but it still sounds like written English. That is a problem.

There are some key differences between spoken and written English.

 

Spoken English:

  • Less emphasis on grammar
  • Less prepared- false starts, un-matching grammar forms
  • Informal, conversational
  • Unfinished sentences
  • Interjections, one word sentences

 

Written English:

( ** depends on what kind of writing)

  • Blog or marketing copy contains quick, to the point, one word sentences that are efficient and direct
  • Academic papers written by PhD students or researchers include long sentences, they are organized, build a case, provide evidence.
  • IELTS writing is totally different. Academic rules don’t all apply. Go here to learn more. 
  • In general, good writing is concise in English, less wordy, more punchy

 

Let’s compare these sentences:

  • “Spending your weekend just on shopping and chatting with your friends wastes the time.”- academic English
  •  “It would waste time if you spent your weekend just on shopping and chatting with your friends.”- casual
  • “It’s a waste of time to spend your weekend chatting with friends.” (also casual)

These sentences are all correct. They are all a different way of wording the same thing.

 

It depends on your personal style:

I really like short, instructive phrases like this: “Don’t spend your weekend chatting with friends because it wastes time.”

I hate flowery, long sentences.

I don’t hate them because they can be confusing but because I think the best display that you understand something is being able to explain it simply, not making it sound fancy and hard for the reader to understand.

Communication, whether it’s writing or speaking, should be about Connection.

 

TAKEAWAY:

Don’t speak the way your native language writes.

Always know what your goal is when you are communicating in English.

If you’re writing, are you writing an academic paper, blog post, or a sentimental letter? That will change your language choice.

Once you know what your goal is, consume a lot of similar speaking and writing material.

If you are writing papers for a university in the US then read academic papers and mirror that style.

If you are giving motivational speeches in English then consume podcasts from personal development coaches and mirror their style.

There is no one right way to speak or to write but there should be a goal each time you communicate.

 

What questions do you have?

Leave us a comment below.