A Word About… Words

by | Nov 30, 2008 | Op/Ed | 6 comments

19152908 Have you any clue how important YOUR writing is to your online personna?!

My original thought was to blog briefly here about do’s an don’t’s of good writing, and quickly realized this is a deep and wide and controversial subject, so I promise not to dump all my pet peeves into this bucket.

I’m actually going somewhere with all this, and having fun along the way, so I hope you stay with me.  As voice actors, we all appreciate good writing, and well-chosen words.


My regular job requires lots of writing, but even more proofreading and re-writing.  Now, mind you…it’s a very specialized style of writing,  not at all like what you’re reading here. 

Broadcast script-writing is frugal to a fault.  Time is of the essence, so it lacks any of the depth, feeling, or substance of say, a newspaper columnist (hence the disdain those folks hold for our ilk).

Nonetheless, after about 30 years of re-writing other people’s bad copy, I’ve come to what I consider a compromising middle-ground of accepting things that don’t follow Strunk & White, all the way up to what MAY be acceptable to the grammar Nazis.

In my estimation, what you write in public should present with the same sensibility as what you would wear to an important job interview.

Sure you have tatoos on your buttocks that tell your girlfriend how much you like German Shepherds, but do you want your prospective boss to know that? 

Until you know your audience, or they know you, it’s always best to err on the side of a slightly more formal, universally-accepted style.

Once they’re comfortable with you, you can use “gonna” instead of “going to”…or ” ’cause” instead of “because”.  Or even beyond that, to emoticons and endearing terms of familiarity (dude!).

[‘Not speaking here of the incredibly abbreviated and arcane shorthand that’s become so popular in texting.  There’s a place for that too, and it’s…uh…on phones.]

You know what?  Long and divisive are the debates about maintaining “proper” grammar and purity in the English language, but it never has been proper or pure, and it will continue to evolve. 

Yes, we could probably understand someone from the original 13 colonies, but they may have trouble with what they hear in the hallways of today’s High Schools.

But, I digress.  Back to my original proposition of how the essence of you will come across in your writing more than anything else in today’s over-social-networked medium.

I don’t really hold it against anyone when I see a misspelling or a lazy prepositional phrase, or a dangling participle, but I must admit there’s a part of me that evaluates and sorts their level of finesse with the language AND social situations when I see it.  Is that wrong of me?

I recognize within the first few sentences of most articles whether or not the author is worth her/his salt as a wordsmith.

For instance, my arbitrary grammar rule-book has a hard-and-fast edict about the four “I’s”.

I (me)

These are words I will never start a story with.  I’ve taken great pains NEVER to use the first-person (I) in starting a blog.  Find one, anywhere in my archives, and you win a gold star.

“It’s” has reached monumental proportions as a starting word in broadcast stories.  That is lazy writing.

OK, I’m getting off into a rant here, and I didn’t want to do that.  I may write more on this topic later if there’s interest.

Just…know that your words represent YOU online.  Be creative.  Be expressive.  Try to find a different word than “nice” or “very” when describing ANYTHING. 

The words you choose to represent yourself are just as important as the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and the way you talk, in revealing YOU.  They represent choices.  Make good ones.




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  1. Sandy Weaver Carman

    Courvo, you’ve struck gold here!! Thanks for this topic, and I look forward to more of your thoughts on how language influences image.
    Recently, someone I worked with in radio a couple of decades ago ran across my blog and wrote, “Hey, didn’t you know radio people aren’t supposed to be writers?” He was kidding, of course, and the compliment made me smile. Of course radio people need to be good writers, just as VO’s need to be good writers. In order to communicate effectively, we must communicate efficiently.
    Go, Courvo, go…and toss in a rant if you feel one coming!
    (CourVO sez: ‘Made me smile! Thanks Sandy!)

  2. Barbara Winter

    It would appear that this was written for me. Thanks so much for the reminder. I’ve been reading Patricia T. O’Conner’s nifty little handbook, Words Fail Me, so your piece is a perfect addition to that.
    (CourVO sez: ‘Written BECAUSE of you and your mentoring of my work…thankyou!)

  3. Mandy Nelson

    I imagine if it’s just me replying then no one will berate me for putting those words together. Sorry, couldn’t resist!
    Seriously, you’ve made a great point and, as usual, it’s well written and easily understood. I used to always judge the way people wrote then I started reading things I’ve posted online. Ick. This digital age has made many of us lazy in our prose.
    (CourVO sez: ‘Nothing YOU have to worry about, Mandy… thanks for commenting.)

  4. Stephanie Ciccarelli

    Bravo Dave!
    This is a sensitive topic and you tackled it with grace and gusto. I understand where you are coming from and appreciate your willingness to express some of your personal beefs regarding the (proper and improper) use of language.
    (CourVO sez: Wow! That means a lot coming from you… thanks Stephanie!)

  5. Lisa Rice

    Your article digresses in the right direction if you ask me.
    You’ve placed several writing gems within your blog to be mined by those of who strive to communicate more effectively.
    ~ Lisa

  6. Leslie Diamond

    Dave, you’re a kindred spirit. Strunk and White? My hardcover second edition is worn out from love and use like a velveteen rabbit, resting close at hand in my studio, always ready to do battle with any writing gaffs I may commit. And I commit my share. Thanks for the reminder about making good language choices, Dave. Rant on, my friend.


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