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The passion of spoken English

Posted by: Mark Griffiths on

In the workplace, we ask communicators to grasp and apply the concepts of written Business English. Given the ease with which people indulge in new ways of speaking, why should they find it so difficult to adapt to new ways of writing?

If you work in a communications role, you’ll have encountered the concept of tone of voice. Essentially, how to write in the way the company wants you to write.

In my experience, the only people who are any good at doing this effectively are those who have created the tone of voice principles in the first place. And, even then, only if they’re experienced copywriters. (We’ve all come across tone of voice principles developed by people who aren’t!)

It takes quite a leap of faith to assume that, since we’ve all been taught how to write English at school, we’ll be able to adapt to a different way of writing English in the workplace.

If, on the other hand, we made this adaptation as playful as the everyday spoken English we hear all around us, things might be different.

At school, we learned about various English tenses, including the Present, Past and Conditional. Here are some examples of new English tenses I’ve heard in use recently.

Wannabee Comparative

A past tense spoken in the present form, often adopted by teenage girls recounting experiences:

“I’m like ‘Wow, did she really say that?’ And she’s like ‘Absolutely!’, then I’m like red in the face, then she’s like, just there, right in front of me. And I’m like ‘Aaaahhhh!’”

Football Conditional

A tense used to express hypothetical situations, usually by football commentators attempting match analysis:

“If Gobi moves an inch to his right, it’s in the net. He’s come through there, and look, he passes it to the left and it’s a sitter for Bonjo. But, no, it’s over the bar.”

If people could put such passion into their everyday written English, there would be no need for tone of voice guidelines.

Have you any examples of modern English usage? I’d love to hear about them.

Author: Mark Griffiths
Mark Griffiths

I blog about better business writing.