Sunday, 24 January 2010

How Formal Is Your Everyday Writing?

This question occured to me as I was writing in my journal, and thinking about Virginia Woolf's diary. I was planning to read unedited versions of her journals, but when I looked at them they just irritated me, because not only it was in the usual 19th cent. style with lots of initials and & symbols everywhere (Jane Austen does that too), but also there were tons of notes on each page, giving us information of what it all meant. It was just distracting. But fortunately, her husband has written an edited version of "Writer's Diary" taking entries from her diaries that relate to writing. He also mentioned in the introduction that he will dispense with the notes and dots so as not to distract the reader. And I am thankful for that. But as I was writing about that in my journal, I noticed my own style. Even my journals aren't completely casual. For example, I nearly always say "I have" or "I am" as oppose to "I've" or "I'm". Even in the stories it is hard for me to remember to do that. I use full sentences. There are rare exceptions like being too tired, or in an extreme need of getting information out in a hurry. But usually even in those circumstances, I write down those notes on a post-it, and then when I transfer them to journal, they are properly written. Same goes for travel journals. Why do I do it? Simple answer is for myself. When I read my journals months or years later, I want things to make sense. I want to be able to read it without getting irritated at bad hand-writing or for things that make no sense. If I am writing emails, I want people to be able to understand what I am trying to say without guessing it. And if I am chatting, I don't want to come across as an illiterate moron who cannot spell things. (yes, I hate the current chat lingo. LOL or BRB is about as far as I am willing to go). Oh yes, paragraphs. Totally hate it when a paragraph is so long, it just all looks like a big block of text. What do you think? Are all these things important only in the work that we are trying to publish, or do they matter in every-day casual interactions too? For me, they most certainly do.

Example of my journal pages. Occassionally they are less orderly, but this is quite standard

Example of casul journal page, a quick map drawing in the museum


  1. Your writing is so neat that I'm having doubts as to whether you're human.

    I don't write a journal, though I have have dalliances with them in the past. My handwriting is appalling, and my thoughts often nonsensical. ;-)


  2. Adam, definitely human. But then of course I would say that ;)

    Oh I have nonsensical thoughts too, I just like to write them down neatly :P

  3. I had to zoom in to see if that was handwritten as well. I don't keep a journal either. I'd probably get in trouble some day if I did.

  4. Matt, as long as you keep them private until you die, that's no problem. And once we are dead, trouble doesn't matter ;)

    I must write more things that might get me in trouble. Sounds exciting. Haha..

  5. Wow. You would be appalled if I posted a photo of pages from my journals. My handwriting is scrawling, oft crossed out, and I use initials for names (most often just the first letter). I do that when making outlines/handwritten book notes too - Charlie becomes "C", etc. I'm normally trying to get the ideas down as fast as possible, which leads to many abbreviations and shorthand.

    You may have noticed that I pay more attention to correspondence with others. I prefer proper (or close to it) sentences, punctuation and grammar for blog posts, emails, comments, and even Twitter. I often find myself slipping British English phrases in, or Canadian spelling, but such is life with friends across the globe. ;-)

  6. I must admit, I have always been bit of a snob when it comes to hand-written stuff, so when I have to cross things out in my journals, I hate it. But fortunately, it doesn't happen often. When I need to get things written really fast that my hand can't keep up then I make post-it notes to be transferred later. I do write quite fast, so it's not a big problem.

    Yes, I switch between US English and British English too. Having lived in the States, and now here, it all gets mixed up sometimes. Never really had much experience with Canadian English, so I am not even sure of differences, except that it's bit closer to British English - at least they say, "Zed" and not "Zee" - though I like Zee, but people in UK scoff at such "americanism" :P

  7. Oh you're handwriting is so nice! Yeah, all my writing is casual just like me ;o) My journals are just me talking... it's just in written form. When I write novels though, I try to keep it grammatically correct, but the sentences are short- it's something I need to work on.

    Your writing is so small and I didn't see any lines??? How do you do that?

  8. No journal for me, only stacks of legal notepads.

  9. Erica, there are no lines. I don't know, I am just able to write in straight line even on blank pages, that's why I have switched mostly to blank pages as opposed to ruled.

    And I don't like to waste writing space (all these journals are expensive), so I usually write it quite tight but readable. Like how it's done in printed books

    Ralfast, it doesn't have to be journals. I was just speaking generally of every day writing. I do journals only because I like those pretty books and they make good keepsakes. But I have got plenty of white pads (we don't do so much yellow pages in UK)

  10. Seriously, no lines?? If I tried to write on paper with no lines my writing would be all over the place like a drunken sailor.

    I think it's because my normal writing has a terrible back-slant to it. I've had people look at my hand writing and think I'm left-handed (I'm not).

    I hand-write in my journals and short letters, but I confess if it's going to be longer than a couple of pages I take pity on the recipient and type my letter instead.

  11. C R, nope, no lines. I wonder why left-handed people have/are associated with back slant. I am left-handed, but instead of twisting my writing, I just twist my notebooks ;)