As a seminary student, I am required to read a lot of literature regarding various spiritual matters. Recently, I read the seventh chapter of my professor’s important book Crossing The Homiletical Bridge. In this chapter, the professor takes time to mention the fact that people tend to be predictable creatures. Although I wasn’t surprised he pointed out that humans have comfort zones, I was pleasantly shocked with the phrase he used to describe the fact that we are creatures of habit: “People is people” (155). In reflecting on why I was humored by these words, I realize that the sentence stood out against a background of grammatically correct phrases. And that is one reason that this casual or grammatically incorrect use of words-which is referred to by academics as colloquial language-can be an advantageous narrative technique for authors to employ. Another reason that colloquial language is an effective literary strategy to use results from the fact that readers connect with it. Let’s examine both of these reasons more closely.
1. It Stands Out.
As I mentioned earlier, my professor’s inclusion of the phrase “people is people” stood out because it was a grammatically incorrect phrase that stood smack in the middle of a bunch of grammatically correct sentences like “People tend to be predictable” (154). In addition to standing out like a sore thumb because of the grammatically correct sentences around it, the professor’s “people is people” phrase was highly noticeable because of the fact that it appeared in a formal written work. In general, one does not expect to find the use of informal language in an academic text. Yet there the words stand. It’s nifty and unconventional not because it hasn’t been done before, but because of the unique words my professor used to do it as well as the textual context in which the phrase appeared. In essence, the use of colloquial language is common, but each writer can employ the literary technique in very specific and intriguing ways.
2. People Connect With It.
During my senior year in high school, a great English teacher I had stated that people generally do not write the way they speak. In making this statement, she meant that the style people use in writing is generally a bit formal and less conversational than the tone they adopt when speaking with others. Yet oftentimes we as humans are accustomed to the more informal mode of communication that tends to occur when we speak to one another. Thus the appearance of informal language on the written page is something that we can connect with. And, as many writers know, connecting with one’s audience is often the key to catching and keeping their attention. So since using colloquial language clearly causes many readers to connect with the material they are ingesting, it can be an advantageous literary technique for writers to make use of.
As indicated earlier, using colloquial language in a written work can be effective for writers seeking to engage their audiences. And this is why I encourage authors to make use of the technique. Good luck!
Guthrie, Tony. Crossing The Homiletical Bridge. Cumming: Heartworks Publications, 2010. Print.
Jocelyn Crawley is a 28-year-old college student currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree in preparation to become a pastor. She holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, Four and Twenty, and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction and Calliope.