Some time back I read an online post about some of the major ideas laid out by William Zinnser in his book On Writing Well. As one who seeks to improve his skill in the craft of writing, I found this post to be very helpful, but I take a slight personal exception with one of Zinnser’s points.

Zinnser contends that one’s writing voice should be the same as one’s speaking voice. While I agree that this is a good general rule and should be true with the majority of cases, I do not hold myself to it. I do not write the same way I talk, namely because my oratory skills are notably worse than my writing skills. It may be that part of the reason I am not a good speaker is that by being a quiet person for so much of my life, my vocal dexterity and speech skills have not developed as thoroughly as they could have. Extended conversations bring pain to the muscles around my mouth, as they are not used to being in action for long periods. I am not claiming to have a speech impediment, but I am far from anything that could be construed as eloquent. Writing allows me to express longer and more complex thoughts that my mouth has difficulty communicating. My writing voice can keep pace with and transcribe the thoughts in my mind; my speaking voice is hard pressed to do the same.

That said, it is not as if my writing voice is the “real” me and my speaking voice is some bumbling fool coming along for the ride. Both my writing and speaking voices are me, and I’ve come to accept them both as genuine expressions of who I am. I will let my speaking voice be my speaking voice, and I will let my writing voice be my writing voice, and I will not force them to merge.

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