正文

Write Like You Talk

October 2015

原文 : Write Like You Talk

聊天那样写作

Here’s a simple trick for getting more people to read what you write: write in spoken language.

这是一个可以让你的文字吸引更多读者的小技巧——像聊天那样写作.

Something comes over most people when they start writing. They write in a different language than they’d use if they were talking to a friend. The sentence structure and even the words are different. No one uses “pen” as a verb in spoken English. You’d feel like an idiot using “pen” instead of “write” in a conversation with a friend.

大多数人在开始写作时都会遇到这样的问题,他们用与朋友聊天时完全不同的遣词造句来写作。在英语语境中,没有人聊天时会把「pen」当作动词使用。如果你和朋友吹牛时不说「写(write)什么」而是说「笔(pen)什么东西」,一种巨大的违和感就会冒出来。

pen 在书面语中也有「写」的含义。如:He penned a letter to the local paper.

The last straw for me was a sentence I read a couple days ago:The mercurial Spaniard himself declared: “After Altamira, all is decadence.“It’s from Neil Oliver’s A History of Ancient Britain. I feel bad making an example of this book, because it’s no worse than lots of others. But just imagine calling Picasso “the mercurial Spaniard” when talking to a friend. Even one sentence of this would raise eyebrows in conversation. And yet people write whole books of it.

比如前几天我就读到了一句难以忍受的句子。原文是这样的:

The mercurial Spaniard himself declared: “After Altamira, all is decadence.”

这个变幻莫测的西班牙人自己宣称:「阿尔塔米拉 之后,一切皆是堕落。」

这句话出自 Neil Oliver 的书籍 *A History of Ancient Britain*。恕我冒昧,其实我并不想拿这本书来举例。毕竟比起许多其它的书来说,它还不算太糟。不过请尝试想像一下,当你和朋友吹牛时,把毕加索(Picasso) 称之为「The mercurial Spaniard(变幻莫测的西班牙人)」会是怎样一个场景。聊天时,这样的话哪怕只有一句也会让人感到诧异,人们却就是用着类似这样的句子写了整本书。

The last/final straw 忍无可忍,使人最终崩溃的一击

Ok, so written and spoken language are different. Does that make written language worse?

是的,书面语和口语有区别。不过这种差异使书面语更不堪了吗?

If you want people to read and understand what you write, yes. Written language is more complex, which makes it more work to read. It’s also more formal and distant, which gives the reader’s attention permission to drift. But perhaps worst of all, the complex sentences and fancy words give you, the writer, the false impression that you’re saying more than you actually are.

如果你期望别人去阅读并理解你写的东西,那么没错,确实如此。书面语更复杂,读起来也就更费劲。同时,书面语也更正式、陌生,这会让读者难以集中注意力。不过这些问题都还好,也许最糟糕的是:复杂花哨的句子会让你——写作者,误以为自己表达了很多东西。

You don’t need complex sentences to express complex ideas. When specialists in some abstruse topic talk to one another about ideas in their field, they don’t use sentences any more complex than they do when talking about what to have for lunch. They use different words, certainly. But even those they use no more than necessary. And in my experience, the harder the subject, the more informally experts speak. Partly, I think, because they have less to prove, and partly because the harder the ideas you’re talking about, the less you can afford to let language get in the way.

并不是复杂的句子才能阐释晦涩的概念。当研究深奥问题的专家们互相讨论各自领域的研究时,那种讨论氛围就如同在谈论早上吃了啥一样简单。当然,他们会使用一些生涩的术语,但也仅限于不可避免时。在我的经验里,一个话题越难,专家们谈论起来就越不那么正式 讲究。我认为一部分原因是源于他们的谨慎,另一部分原因则是,一个领域越复杂,能用语言表达的东西就越少。

Informal language is the athletic clothing of ideas.

某种程度上,随意的交流方式就是思想的运动服。

通俗的表达就如同思想的小钢炮。

存疑

I’m not saying spoken language always works best. Poetry is as much music as text, so you can say things you wouldn’t say in conversation. And there are a handful of writers who can get away with using fancy language in prose. And then of course there are cases where writers don’t want to make it easy to understand what they’re saying—in corporate announcements of bad news, for example, or at the more bogus end of the humanities. But for nearly everyone else, spoken language is better.

当然,我并不是说使用口语总能达到非常好的效果。对于诗歌,文字之于它就如音符之于音乐,你自然可以用上许多吹牛时不会使用的言辞。至于散文,也有一些作者能用华丽的文字写出及其精彩的文章。另外还有这样的情况:有时表达者并不想让读者轻易搞懂他们的真实意图——例如公司发布的一些负面信息的声明。又或者,当人性不得不展示它的虚伪。不过对几乎所有人来说,使用口语写作才是更好的方式。

It seems to be hard for most people to write in spoken language. So perhaps the best solution is to write your first draft the way you usually would, then afterward look at each sentence and ask “Is this the way I’d say this if I were talking to a friend?” If it isn’t, imagine what you would say, and use that instead. After a while this filter will start to operate as you write. When you write something you wouldn’t say, you’ll hear the clank as it hits the page.

这么讲,用口语来写作似乎对于大多数人来说有点困难。所以最佳方案可能是,先按通常的方式写下初稿,然后逐句细读,一边读一边问自己,「我会用这样的话来和朋友吹牛吗?」如果你对某个句子给出了否定的答案,那么就想像一下聊天时你会怎么来表达这句话里的意思,然后用新的表达替换掉之前的句子。过一段时间后,这种替换操作就会像一个严谨的机器一样,在你写文章时一丝不苟地工作。每当你敲击键盘,正要写下一些过于书面的句子,这个机器就会「叮当」一声撞向显示屏,以此警告你。

Before I publish a new essay, I read it out loud and fix everything that doesn’t sound like conversation. I even fix bits that are phonetically awkward; I don’t know if that’s necessary, but it doesn’t cost much.

发布一篇新文章前,我会大声朗读它,然后修改其中所有聊天时不会使用的表达,甚至包括那些读出来发音尴尬的部分。我也不确定这样是不是过头了,但至少反正也不费什么劲。

This trick may not always be enough. I’ve seen writing so far removed from spoken language that it couldn’t be fixed sentence by sentence. For cases like that there’s a more drastic solution. After writing the first draft, try explaining to a friend what you just wrote. Then replace the draft with what you said to your friend.

不过这种方式也并不总是够用。我之前没有用口语写作时,句与句之间总是不连贯。对这种情况,有个更激进的解决方案。那就是写完初稿后,试着向一个朋友解释你刚刚写下的东西,然后把草稿换成你刚刚对朋友说的话。

存疑

so far removed from = to be very different from

People often tell me how much my essays sound like me talking. The fact that this seems worthy of comment shows how rarely people manage to write in spoken language. Otherwise everyone’s writing would sound like them talking.

经常有人告诉我说读你的文章就像是在听你聊天。这展现了人们很少用口语写作这一值得讨论的事实,否则每个人所写的东西都应该听起来像是在聊天才对。

If you simply manage to write in spoken language, you’ll be ahead of 95% of writers. And it’s so easy to do: just don’t let a sentence through unless it’s the way you’d say it to a friend.

如果你能想办法用口语去写作,那你就超过了 95% 的写作者了!这做起来也非常简单——确保你写下的每一句话都像是在和读者聊天。

Thanks to Patrick Collison and Jessica Livingston for reading drafts of this.

其它

其它不谈了,感觉最近脑子昏沉沉,集中不了精力…

第一次哦,值得纪念。在我的水平范围内尽力了 😁

疏漏与不恰当难免,欢迎拍砖…

另,感谢某友人解答了我的一些疑惑。