Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Failure to Communicate

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

While having lunch with a friend recently, we noticed that our waitress seemed to be experiencing some stress.  She was having issues with the kitchen, and we overheard her on her cellphone arguing with someone. 

Since only a few minutes earlier she had been friendly and chatty with us, we felt a certain compassion for her.  When she returned to our table acting very distracted, my companion thoughtfully suggested she relax for a moment and catch her breath, because she seemed a bit flustered.

"I'm a bit what?" she asked.


"What does that mean?"

I wanted to say "nonplussed", but that wouldn't have been the moment.  We had to think of a layman's definition, and came up with something like, "You know...troubled, upset, confused."

"Okay," she said, leaving the table numbly and only returning later to bring us the bill.  We still don't know if she was offended by our observation, or simply further nonplussed.

It got me thinking about how we writerswith our enviable command of the English languagecan easily forget who we're talking to. This is, of course, generally forgivable in everyday conversation, but when writing, it's essential never to talk down to our audience.  Children's authors aren't the only ones who'll tell you how important it is to reign in too-fancy vocabulary.

We keep hearing that writing at no higher than an 8th grade level will be appropriate for most audiences.  How we're supposed to remember—and avoidwhich words we've learned since grade school, I have no idea, but to be safe I find myself watching more episodes of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?

A higher level of communication is one of many reasons we love talking to other writers.  Not only are authors a fun bunch, but talking about writing is always interesting, and we learn so much from each other.  You'll find this to be especially true this weekend when we debut the next edition of our Southern Writers Radio Show webcast.

The new show will feature intriguing in-depth conversation with some of your favorites, and some who will become your favorites: Tamera Alexander, C. Hope Clark, Kimberly Brock, Lindi Peterson, and Erika Robuck, along with Kimberly Rae, who joins us for a riveting round of our writers' game WordPlay.  It's a diverse group of wordsmiths who have fascinating insights to share about the writing craft.  You won't want to miss it!  Look for the link this weekend in the right-hand column here at Suite T, as well as on our main website, www.southernwritersmagazine.com  (Update: Click here to listen to the new show).

In the meantime, you can still hear the current edition, featuring Sandra Balzo, Pamela King Cable, Kala Ambrose, Rhonda Rhea, Terry Whalin, Edie Melson and Danny Iny right now, by visiting this direct link to Southern Writers Radio Show: http://swonline.homestead.com/radioshowfall2012.html
It's free, it's online, and it's just for us writers. It's especially good if you're feeling flustered.

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