I wake up. I smell bad breath. I’m disgusted. I look over. My dog’s sitting right next to me. He’s breathing in my face.
This string of sentences would not be acceptable if I was writing for the eye. In most forms of writing, there is a set of guidelines you must follow in order to craft a very elegant piece. While writing for your readers, according to Jill Swenson, you want to “communicate an idea or present the facts and let the reader infer the meaning and significance of the words.” The sentences I wrote above, however, were not intended to be read – they were intended to be heard.
There are many different occasions where you may write a piece that is intended to be heard. You can speak at an event, deliver a presentation, talk on a podcast, or even voice an audiobook. In order to write effectively for the ear, there are a few guidelines that must be followed, and they are quite different compared to ordinary writing practices.
While writing for the ear, you should follow your ABC’s: Accurate, Brief, Clear (Swenson). When considering your accuracy, you want to use a variety of descriptive words in your piece. They do not have to be big words – in fact, they shouldn’t be big. Instead, think of words that give your audience the best understanding of your story. Your voice is equally as powerful as the words you speak, so use your voice to its fullest potential and make sure you paint the best picture you can. Donna Francavilla writes, “If a basketball championship game has been won, you can shout above screaming fans. If you are reporting from the scene of a candlelight vigil, whisper as you describe the ways mourners are swaying while softly singing.”
There are also many ways to make your speech brief while still evoking emotion to your audience. Apparently, “adults can understand 96 percent of all spoken language with a vocabulary of just 2,000 words” (Francavilla). It is imperative, therefore, that you use short and well-known words in your speech. Your sentences should be short, too, as that actually increases the emotional impact the message of the story has on the listener.
Clarity is also vital when writing for the ear. Using the active voice and restricting sentences to one clause allows the listeners to quickly comprehend your message, which increases their attention and interest towards your speech. When writing for the reader, you normally do not want to be repetitive while describing a scene. This tactic, however, is actually recommended to those writing for the listener, as repeatedly describing something leaves the audience no choice but to pay attention.
As with all forms of writing, rereading and revising are strongly recommended when crafting a piece that is meant to be spoken. Revising a piece for the ear is a little different than revising for the eye, but the consequence is still the same. When looking over your piece, you want to read it aloud to yourself multiple times so you can eliminate all of the unnecessary words. This includes filler words, big words, and words that you cannot pronounce very easily. Your story is a representation of you, and therefore it is important to give a piece meant for the ear just as much attention as you would give to a piece meant for the eye, otherwise you may find yourself speaking to no one before you know it.