Thursday, 2 May 2013

Who writes this stuff?

Although some argue that technology spells the end for literacy - no more books, curtains for the written word - surely this is crazy. For example, from an early age children are now writing (or typing) more than they ever did: every day we send billions of text messages and emails, many of us write blogs and make comments online. Now, of course, much of this content isn't elegant prose - far from it. But what's important is that we now have another rich way to communicate with one another. Not - heaven forbid - a replacement for good old face-to-face conversation, but a great way to supplement it.

How good are we, though, at incorporating our true feelings into what we write? When you read someone's Facebook status update, can you genuinely gauge their state of mind? In fact, in the past week two different people have told me that it's not always easy to spot my own underlying emotions in the written work I share online. Now, this is partly deliberate. These daily mood nudges, for example, might not go down so well if I spilled my occasional personal woes and lows into them. (They probably wouldn't be much fun to write, either.) One place where tone of voice is crucial, though, is in the words you use when you're effectively writing to yourself. If you were to write a diary, what voice would you hear when you read it back? What type of person would have written words like that? Who were you when you wrote them?

My friend Annie has suggested that I read my own jottings as a detective might, and I must say that this has been enlightening. If you're writing something today, why not read it back to see if you can read your mood? It could be revealing. (Mind you, it probably won't be difficult if it's that letter you've been meaning to send to the phone company.)