Why the BBC and the Government are wrong about writing

by gordon_mullan

I came across this BBC News article today:

Children’s mags ‘damage writing’

“The report said these pupils read lightweight fiction and magazines at home for pleasure, which some teachers regarded as “comfort reading”.

Teachers said they were concerned about the impact on pupils’ writing, which tended to be “inappropriately colloquial” when the task required a little more formal style.

This could be addressed by making pupils realise that writing is not simply “talk written down”, the report added. ”

My beef with this, in the context of small business owners writing copy for their websites, brochures, etc. is quite simple – when you’re writing sales copy, or indeed writing anything to motivate someone to act, “talk written down” is exactly what you need.

That includes (amongst other things): colloquialisms; starting sentences with ‘And’ and ‘But’; contractions like ‘isn’t’, ‘we’re’, ‘you’re’ and so on; sometimes even slang like ‘ain’t’, or a bit of swearing; and so on.

Yes, there are times when formal language is required, when I rewrite my essay  for school, I try my best to make it as formal and proper as possible. You need to know how to write it when the situation requires e.g. a formal business plan for your bank manager.  But for heaven’s sake – DON’T write like that when you’re trying to ‘talk’ to someone in your website, adverts, etc.  The exact tone you take might vary, but it should still ‘sound’ natural.

Here’s a quick tip anyone can do, I learned to do this when I would rerwrite my essay for school: I would read my whole essay out loud.  – read your website, brochure, or whatever, out loud, as if you were talking to an interested prospect.  If it doesn’t feel natural, and flow off the tongue, rewrite it until it does.

Ya get me? 😉

(And considering the Government’s track record on creating written materials that actually convince people to take a particular course of action…well, I wouldn’t be taking advice from ’em, would you?)

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