Accuracy, Succinctness, and Liveliness

Ron Paul Curriculum, English 1, Lesson 40

Writing assignment: 500 words on this topic, “Which is most important in writing dialogue from memory: accuracy, succinctness, or liveliness? Why?”

When someone is writing down dialogue from memory, say for an autobiography or another book, three aspects it is wise to pay attention to are Accuracy, Succinctness, and Liveliness. In my opinion, accuracy is the most important. A focus on accuracy can make it less likely for the reader to misunderstand key facts, making the autobiography more coherent. As a reader, I would prefer dialogue to be representative of what was actually said, or what would have been said, than to be short, funny, and misleading.

Message degradation is annoying at the very least. If dialogue in an autobiography is inaccurate, some readers may misinterpret it’s meaning. It’s like the game telephone, but with only the original speaker, the author, and the reader. In telephone (According to Wikipedia, it’s also called Russian scandal.), there is a ring of people. One person tells the person next to him a message, that person tells whoever’s next to him, and so forth. By the time the message gets back to the first person, it’s usually very garbled. If the author minimizes the deviation from the original dialogue, the reader can get a much more accurate mental representation of what happened in that place, at that time.

Of course, it isn’t good if readers get bored in the middle of the book. If I were to write something from memory, I would make a few modifications to shorten it, but I would make sure I kept it as accurate as possible, checking my changes to ensure that it’s extremely unlikely for misinterpretations to happen. Other writers must choose for themselves how they prioritize each factor.

Between Accuracy, Succinctness, and Liveliness, I think that Accuracy is the most important. It prevents the message from deteriorating between speaker, author, and reader. A focus on accuracy can also help readers picture the scene more clearly. In the end, it’s completely up to the writer involved.


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