Thursday, May 15, 2014

'Many Happy Mediums' and Other Reasons Not to Write the Way You Speak

You've probably heard the adage, "Write the way you speak."

Please don't.

I'm all for writing clearly and simply, and mostly we speak that way. Too often, though, we just write what comes into our head and then expect the reader to grasp our meaning.

To wit. This sentence came across our desk recently from an inexperienced author:

“Being an office manager is very challenging since there are many happy mediums that must be mastered in terms of rapport, respect, and continual growth and improvement of patient care and finances.”

Putting aside the bland and overused very and the incorrect use of since (since deals with time; the correct word would be because), let's focus on that "many happy mediums" part.

I sort of know what the author means, and I think if I heard her say it, I would probably nod in agreement.

When that sentence is written, though, all that clarity disappears. What this particular author tried to do was to put too much information into one sentence, and she ended up with a sentence so muddy the reader can't hardly figure out what it means. For instance, how does rapport relate to continued growth in the practice's revenue? And where are all these happy mediums of which you speak?

It's okay to write the way you speak initially, but then read what you've written and look for unclear phrases, like "there are many happy mediums."

Unless, of course, you actually want a several smiling clairvoyants, in which case, go for it!