Tell me what you think when you read this sentence.
I stubbed my toe today.
What is my tone? What am I saying? Am I crying (I stubbed my toe and it hurts like hell)? Am I laughing (I stubbed my big fat stupid toe today)? Am I rolling my eyes in mock disgust (I — yes, I — stubbed my toe today)? Am i kidding you (I “stubbed” my toe today)?
What is your instant reaction to that two-dimensional statement? Laughter? Sympathy? Lack of patience at such a clumsy move?
Reading another’s writing is a wonderful experience. With one or two strokes on the keyboard you can find out about someone’s day, love life, depressions, and funny escapades. One-on-one or reading a book, words can open doors to worlds only once dreampt of.
But basic, simple sentences are often prime grounds for speculation. Without adjectives or adverbs, a sentence is open to interpretation. Depending upon your mood at the time, you could laugh or get bitchy or get depressed by what you read. Reporters do their best to stay unbiased, but if they have indigestion or are being threatened by a bill collector, their “tint” might be more or less shaded. It’s not bad journalism — it’s just the nature of the beast.
I have often texted or emailed someone, only to get a response that upset me one way or another. I don’t think first — I just assume. Yes, yes, I know what happens when you ass-u-me…but it’s more a knee-jerk reaction. Only with more conversation does the dust in my head clear and I see what’s really going on. When my friend texts “I can’t make it tonight,” all it should mean to me is “I can’t make it tonight.” Not “I can’t make it because you make me sick” or “I can’t make it because my dog died” or “I can’t make it because I have to study for my finals tomorrow.” All it meant was, she couldn’t make it tonight.
It’s the same for writing things for others to read. If I write “I stubbed my toe today,” most of the time it just means “I stubbed my toe today.” But if I’m trying to be funny, “I stubbed my toe today” doesn’t reflect much humor. If I’m angry about the rock on the side of driveway that got in the way of my toe, “I stubbed my toe today” doesn’t translate that, either. If I’m embarassed about my own stupidity of kicking that rock on the side of the driveway with my toe, that doesn’t translate, either.
I suppose what I’m saying is that God gave us creative words for a reason. They are supposed to take the place of facial expression when we can’t talk face-to-face with others. Looking into each other’s eyes, watching body language, hearing the inflection of your voice, all clarify simple statements. Even lies.
But writing just for the sake of writing can be a one-sided world, too. You need to throw some emotion into your statements. Some color. Some emphasis. That’s the only way we, the readers, can know where you’re coming from.
Don’t let us wondering what you’re thinking. Or what we’re supposed to be thinking. If you want to make us laugh, use your words. If you want tears to come to our eyes, use your words. If you want us to feel depression or elation, use your words. Let the reader feel what you want them to feel. Like…
I stubbed my %@^?>$ toe today!!!