The informality of the spoken word seems to make careful editing unnecessary. After all, syntax is syntax. (Or is it sin tax?)

What makes sense in print usually makes sense when spoken,  but the sense may be quite different. On tonight’s “NBC Nightly News,” for example, Jim Miklaszewski reported on a recent U.S. military attack against a hospital in Afghanistan. His script said this:

American gunships pounded the hospital, operated by Doctors without Borders, with heavy artillery.

That statement made perfect sense in print. But when Mik spoke it as a video voice-over, the commas disappeared and it sounded like the respected international NGO had become Doctors without Borders with Heavy Artillery. Suppose he’d said it this way:

American gunships pounded with heavy artillery the hospital operated by Doctors without Borders.

Or even this way:

With heavy artillery, American gunships pounded the hospital operated by Doctors without Borders.

Every public speaker needs to anticipate how human ears will interpret a sentence when they hear it. With practice and care, you can be your own best editor; but even then, don’t hesitate to ask a friend, “How does this sound?”