Don't Let Weird Al Steer You Wrong

Weird Al Yankovic is on the charts again with a clever parody of a hit song. In Word Crimes, he pokes fun at people's texting habits. Plus, he dispenses a little grammar and punctuation advice. If you write speeches and presentation scripts, enjoy the song, but be careful about taking Weird Al's advice. Here’s why. The way we talk and the way we write for the page, or computer screen are different. So, the last thing you should worry about is whether words destined to be spoken look good in print or pixels.

For example: when was the last time you corrected anyone for failing to speak in complete sentences? We talk in sentence fragments all the time. Using them speeds up communication and adds energy and interest to our conversation. We also begin many spoken sentences with connector words such as and, but and because, which is considered bad form in writing. And we split infinitives, misplace modifiers and leave participles dangling all over the place. Guess what? People rarely notice or care.

So, here's the rule to follow when editing a speech: let what sounds right to the ear trump what language purists tell us is right for the page. Your listeners will thank you for it. And I doubt Weird Al will mind a bit.