Voice and environment (was RE: Reading and Editing

Subject: Voice and environment (was RE: Reading and Editing
From: KMcLauchlan -at- chrysalis-its -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 13:14:11 -0400

Frank Krasovic wondered:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Frank Krasovic [mailto:krasovic -at- intellinet-tech -dot- com]
> When reading text (it doesn't matter if the text is a novel, newspaper
> article, user's manual, what-have-ya) I "hear" a narrator
> reading the words.
> When I read a Tom Clancy novel, each of the characters have a
> different
> voice and the third-person arrogation is a more-or-less
> monotone newscaster
> voice. This has been going on since I stared reading, around
> age 4ish. I
> guess I always knew this was going on, but I just "realized" it after
> talking to another who shares the experience.
> Do any of ya'll have that going on?

Yes. Exactly that. It's much clearer when the characterization
is good, so I don't dither about what the voice might sound like.
The voices just sound like the characters and I think no more
of it until I realize that my wife has been trying to get my
attention. Hers was just one of the crowd of voices... :-)

Unfortunately, this effect, which greatly aids my enjoyment and
involvement in fiction... slows down my reading due to the

Some years ago, I made a stab at learning to speed-read,
so that I could get through technical stuff more quickly.
I found two things:

1) no matter how much I practiced, it was always unnatural
for me -- "against the grain" somehow and,

2) it didn't deliver the promised gain in speed of comprehension.

If I needed to really know a topic, then I had to go back over
it, slowly, often re-reading sections until they jelled. In fact,
I've noticed that if I invest a dense section of technical or
expository prose with somebody else's interested and enthusiastic
voice, I help my own grasp of the material.

Does this suggest that I should be using different voices when
I *write* technical material? Hmm.

I wonder if there's any correlation between those of us who
"hear the voices" and those who don't, versus those who thrive
in a reading environment with stereo, TV and several live
conversations roaring around our heads, while others prefer
quiet surroundings. (For that matter, is it possible to
enjoy fiction without having the pictures and voices in
your head as you read?)

My wife, for example, can always get my attention when I'm
reading in a relatively quiet room. Sometimes just a raised
eyebrow does it. If I'm filtering out a lot of ambient noise
and visual clutter (like the TV), then apparently I'm also
filtering out the spouse. (Danger! Will Robinson. Danger!)

This leads me to wonder if you folk write differently for
audiences who are likely to be reading your guides and
manuals in distracting environments, versus relatively quiet
surroundings... ??

Oh, hey! Here's another one. Some user documents -- such
as auto owners' manuals -- have lots of pictures, usually
illustrations, rather than photos. I've noticed a lot of
use of pastel shades and screens. Do the people producing
that kind of thing give any thought to the reader who
might be paging through the book, alone on a highway in
the dead of night, with a flashlight?

"Fuses, fuses... where are the damn fuses? These @#%*!
pictures are so low-contrast in this light."


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