Respect your Reader
Communicate Well Through Writing

Saving English One Word At A Time.

An English tutoring column by Ralph Schatzki who would like you to join him in the task of saving the language, step-by-step, word-by-word, one person at a time.

Writing is Not Identical to Speaking

Respect your Reader
Communicate Well Through Writing

How your words are interpreted.
A Saving English One Word At A Time article by the columnist Ralph Schatzki

So many people treat writing as if it were identical to speaking, even though we listen to speach and read writing. But listening is done with the ear, while reading is done with the eye (no offense intended to those of us who are blind or deaf, for whom, respectively, reading is done with touch and listening is- also- done with the eye). Different pathways to the brain are utilized when one listens than are used when one reads.

Treat Writing Not More Than What It Is

Now, reading and listening are the "other halves" of writing and speaking, where a thought is expressed by one individual and interpreted by another. The primary goal in both these activities is communication, so it is somewhat understandable they are viewed as similar. Misunderstandings between people occur all the time, though, so it seems counterproductive to treat writing as if it were anything other than what it is, and thereby make matters more difficult by asking a reader to do extra work.

Extra Effort

By way of example, the word "before" is now often written "B4;" and, while the two sound the same, the first doesn't require the reader to sound it out- to utilize other parts of his brain- to make sense out of it, whereas the second does. Yet when someone is trying to convey an idea that he deems important but is too lazy to take the time on his part to be understood by the person to whom he is conveying it- asking him, instead, to undertake the extra effort to decipher it- it shows a decided lack of respect toward the person to whom he is addressing. Why should a reader pay attention to such condescension?

Rules Do Not Always Apply

Of course, there are times when shorthand is necessary, or when something is done for art's sake, or when people tease. There are very few "rules" that are hard and fast because rules are based upon principles, and often a conflicting principle takes precedence, so I'm not suggesting that "B4" never be used under any circumstance. The language, as well as people, though, should be respected. Let's not forget that.

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About Column Contributor

Ralph Schatzki

A proofreader, editor, author, math teacher and tutor, professional opera singer, ex-lawyer (by his own choice), sports fan, husband and father. He has lived on both American coasts, as well as in the southwest and midwest, and overseas in Thailand for more than thirteen years. He loves to read, write and perform, to watch sports, and to spend time with his family.
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