Event review: Editing for the ear

Written by Amy Haagsma; copy edited by Karen Barry

Recap of EAC-BC’s branch meeting on January 21, 2015.

To kick off 2015, EAC-BC hosted Colin Moorhouse at our branch meeting on January 21. Colin is a Vancouver-based speech writer; he also offers presentation training and speech-writing courses. He’s found it to be an interesting niche, as he gets to share in his clients’ passions and learn about a lot of different things.

Colin explained that one of the key considerations when writing a speech is that the end product will be read aloud. Therefore, a good speech writer must appeal to the ear rather than to the eye. Rhythm, pacing, and metre are very important, as is using a colloquial tone and plain language. Speeches also convey emotion more directly than the written word.

To write an engaging speech, Colin suggests focusing on these six elements:

  1. Oratory: consider the talent and ability of the speaker.
  2. Event: think about factors such as the audience size, knowledge, and interest, and the level of formality.
  3. Story: tell a story to connect with and engage your audience.
  4. Humour: try including a short, well-timed anecdote (hint: you can make anything fit).
  5. Language: use simple language.
  6. Interest: recognize that any topic can be interesting!

The good news is that you don’t need all six of these elements to write an engaging speech. Most of us are not naturally good public speakers, and we don’t always have control over the event. However, the form and function of the speech should be driven by the nature of the event and the audience. Also, it’s best to write in a style and language that almost anyone could deliver. And above all else, make sure that you understand the key message and the desired outcome.

Amy Haagsma is a communications professional and a graduate of SFU’s Editing Certificate program.

Karen Barry is launching into freelance editing and is currently enrolled in SFU’s Editing Certificate program. She has a background in biology and over 15 years’ experience writing and editing research papers, technical reports, grant proposals, and promotional and educational materials.

Image by Shutterstock.

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