Mark Twain
on the Spoken Word vs.
the Written Word

Spoken speech is one thing, written speech is quite another. Print is a proper vehicle for the latter, but it isn’t for the former. The moment “talk” is put into print you recognize that it is not what it was when you heard it; you perceive that an immense something has disappeared from it. That is its soul. You have nothing but a dead carcass left on your hands.

Color, play of feature, the varying modulations of voice, the laugh, the smile, the informing inflections, everything that gave that body warmth, grace, friendliness, and charm, and commended it to your affection, or at least to your tolerance, is gone, and nothing is left, but a pallid, stiff and repulsive cadaver.

When one writes for print, his methods are very different. He follows forms which have but little resemblance to conversation, but they make the reader understand what the writer is trying to convey.

So painfully aware is the novelist that naked talk in print conveys no meaning, that he loads, and often overloads, almost every utterance of his characters with explanations and interpretations. It is a loud confession that print is a poor vehicle for "talk," it is a recognition that uninterpreted talk in print would result in confusion to the reader, not instruction.

(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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