Internal Editors

ed-it verb 1. Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it · remove unnecessary or inappropriate words, sounds, or scenes from a text, movie, or radio or television program. LINK


Anything written or said is subject to an internal editor. Wendell C. Rudacille, Identifying Lies in Disguise 


Editors have a tough job. They look at narrative cohesion and flow, search for transitions and gaps, parse grammar, and polish prose. Editing a liar is even harder. But a liar need not engage a free-lancer or a pro. His editor is in his head. 

Forensic statements can be written or oral. Statement analyst Wendell Rudacille notes important differences between the two. Speech is spontaneous. Writing presents a greater opportunity to rehearse. But in either case, the words are first uttered by an “inner voice”. Rudacille calls this voice the internal editor. The internal editor’s job depends on the communication mode.

Before committing words to paper, a written liar and his internal editor silently and privately converse. The liar’s editor’s first job is to stop incriminating information from escaping the pen. After censoring guilty words and phrases, it must then combine new ones into sentences that tell a coherent story. Based on the misspellings, inserts, parentheticals and cross-outs in Duane’s 1973 written statement, his internal editor was working overtime. 

Oral interviews are face to face. The spoken liar’s editor can’t cross out or erase words or phrases, and because the interviewer expects answers in real time, there is less opportunity to edit or rehearse. But liars need feedback to adapt. As forensic linguist Isabel Picornell says in Analysing Deception in Written Witness Statements, the constant feedback provided by the back-and-forth of an oral interview enables a liar to adapt his approach. 

Written statements are more stressful than oral ones for other reasons too. Picornell notes that if a suspect volunteers to write a statement, he can no longer remain silent. And, instead of being directed to a questioner who is present, a written statement is addressed to no one. The writer can’t control who will read it. He must deceive a faceless multitude, not just the cop across the table.

Do written statements reveal more than oral ones?


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