So I’ve been reading this book called Good Prose by Tracy Kidder (who also authored of one of the Amazing Books I Can’t Seem To Finish.) It’s all about, well, writing good prose. And my faithfuls, it is revelatory. Reading this book is like taking the best writing class from the coolest professor in college except that it’s easy, entertaining, and you don’t have to write anything at all. (It’s like Comms 101 for adults!) And you don’t need to be writer, or even a wannabe-writer (like me,) to appreciate this book. It explains how to write clearly so we can think clearly–in that order. Always a good skill for grownups. (A label I can no longer avoid.) (And haven’t really been able to avoid for the last decade. Let’s get real.)
‘Kay. So. Guess what Mr. Kidder tells us to do? “Write like you speak. Or at least, write like you speak on your best day.” He warns against inflated language that shows off skill rather than makes the point. The rhythm of your writing, he says, should imitate the rhythm of your speaking. And though this theory sounds plausible on the page I must, with all due respect to this esteemed author, ask the question I find myself asking all too often, which is: are you kidding me?
Or rather, I should ask: ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Because that is kinda-sorta how I talk (kinda-sorta included) even–no, especially–on my “best day.” This is because on my best days I’m extra-jaunty, and though that’s fun for me, it’s not necessarily pleasant for whomever
is trapped listening happens to be listening to me. My worst days are all lower cases and ellipses. On my best days, however, you’ll see a great deal of ALL CAPS (screaming), italics (making my point with vocal inflection instead of, um, words), and lots and lots of run-on sentences (like, okay, no…I’m totally serious…ok, just a sec–ETHAN, KNOCK IT OFF I’M ON THE PHONE!–ok, sorry, where was I…oh yeah, and then, I am not kidding, she actually said to me…(insert mild comment from a frenemy that I morphed into an offensive one to make a better story). Oh, and you would also read a lot of exclamation points on my best days. Because on my Best Days, I heart exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
All of this, of course, would be footnoted by some kind of small, hand-clapping graphic that has yet to be designed. See, whenever someone tells me something that makes me glad, I have a tendency to press my hands together under my chin in a kind of prayer position (elbows out, I-Dream-of-Jeannie-style) and slap them back-and-forth in a soft mini-clap, shouting “YAY!” in an excruciatingly high-pitched voice that betrays my position as an alto in the ward choir. (Were I to sing alto in the ward choir. Or sing. At all.)
I was not aware of this mannerism until my tween girls pointed it out to me, with no small amount of [tcsublocker id=”54af242cf0b20b257″ fields=”” title=”Enjoying my posts? Enter your email to get more now!” message=”It just takes a moment. Simply enter your email address to unlock this content. My subscribers receive posts in their Inbox and occasional correspondence from me.”]
Once acknowledged, I thought they might find it charming, or at least quirky. No dice. So I went for eccentric–the aging person’s last frontier to justify annoying personal characteristics. No Mom, they informed me. It still bugs. Well, I informed them back, it’s here to stay. So in order to write like I speak, I’ll be needing a cheery little symbol, in the vein of the Smiley Face, to place just after my CAPS, italics, and exclamation points!!!! Because as a grown woman, I cannot possibly be expected to express thoughts or convey emotion with mere words alone! Hand gestures are obviously needed. I mean, what if I don’t CLAP and the person to whom I’m speaking doesn’t absorb the FULL WRATH OF MY ENTHUSIASM??!!!!! I’d die. I would just, like…DIE!!!