Which One Do You Do?

Do you write like you speak, or do you speak like you write?

I can see hundreds of students all going “Huh!” right about now. But I ask this question for one inescapable reason and if you pay note to what comes next, then you will improve your grades no end.

If you write like you speak, then that means you automatically use something we call brevity which means you shorten things down a lot. An example would be as below:

Just been down to the shops to buy petrol.

Is there anything wrong with that sentence?

It makes perfect sense. It is spelt correctly. It conveys real meaning and therefore, is an accurate use of the English language. But the answer, of course, is yes, there is something wrong, because there are some important words missing.

You meant to write:

I have just been down to the shops to buy some petrol for the car.

When we use a laptop, or an iMac, or when we use our phones and we are on things like social media, we shorten things down all of the time. It is normal. There is nothing wrong with that, at all. But we can fall into the trap when we are writing, of doing the same and when it is a note to a friend, that is not a problem at all, to anyone.

But when it has to be something formal, like a letter for a job, or an examination paper, where we are being assessed on our use of correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, or SPAG, as you will have seen by now, it is an issue.

I see paper after paper, or answer after answer, that uses brevity disguised as correct Standard English, all of the time. I even do it myself from time to time and then see it and think horrible things about myself, for falling for it yet again.

So, what must we do?

If you are having an assessment to do, of possibly 2,000 words, then by all means, write it out in the way you would normally, but then, very slowly, go through it, using a reader software that you can download sometimes, for free, so you can ‘hear’ the words and the sentences. Your eyes never see the error but your ears, they are perfect (assuming you are not hearing impaired, of course) and you will notice the mistakes, so you can then make the necessary changes.

Be very careful, therefore, not to fall into this trap, when writing something formally, for it can make a very good 65 grade go below a 58 grade in one fell swoop, when you use too much brevity.

That is how important written Standard English use is, especially when being assessed formally.

RJ