I’ve being interviewing customers for video testimonials. Listening to them, as part of the editing process, has driven home a point about dialog.
Most people don’t speak very well. We hum and haw, we pause, start a sentence in one place and end it somewhere else. If we actually get to the end at all. Some people are more coherent than others and some people are, well, hardly coherent at all. I have friends who could stand up and speak for an hour, without loosing track of where they’re going and I’ve got friends who can’t tell me why they are ten minutes late without taking a detour past their childhood and telling a couple of jokes from a film they watched last week. Most of us, I hope, fall somewhere in the middle.
The middle way of human speech still involves a lot of humming and hawing, cutting off mid-sentence and starting again. Natural speech patterns read really badly. It takes too long to get to the point and the words often don’t make sense. When we listen to speech, it seems that our brains fill in the gaps and turn bad sentences into decent ones. Brains are brilliant. When we read natural speech we don’t correct as much. So we get annoyed and tired, or find humour where it’s not intended.
I’ve never tried writing natural dialog and having listened to myself waffle at my coherent best, I don’t want to. It has driven home to me, though, how important it is that you get the written voice right.
It’s also made me think about how I speak. I want to be completely coherent. All the time. Like. Uhm.