Using language

Matt Morgan
Feb 27, 2014


Especially in an election year, but all throughout life, how we communicate is important.
The ability for us to tell stories is what separates us from the other animals. Ah, perhaps you thought it was our opposable thumbs we did that with? Perhaps, arguably. But as far as we can observe or imagine (an irony), humans are the only ones who can tell a story. To create something from nothing as if we had within us a spark of divine creation. Our divinity aside, we too also compete against Darwinism. Not just the kind of physical form, or those who "win" that special award, but rather whose story is more superior. After all W.A.R. stands for We Are Right, does it not?
When starting up this blog I was given the advice of, "Brevity is the soul of wit." - Shakespeare. 'Tis true and it is something of a struggle as there is always a story to be told. Or so it seems. There just always seems to be so much to say and so many opportunities to explore you are pulled in many directions! Yet a focused message is crucial. Especially when you are going for a target market in business or politics. Buzzwords and repetition will win the day in both cases, but if you employ them make sure you can define them. Eventually someone will ask you what "new and improved" or "middle-class" means.
As we prepare our businesses for the oncoming summer rush, or we put our thinking caps on to determine who we want to put on a ballot, here's a few great guidelines to follow when practicing your linguistic and imaginative Darwinism:

Don't abbrev.

Eschew obfuscation.

Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.

Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

Watch out for irregular verbs which have crope into our language.

Don't use no double negatives

Stamp out and eliminate redundancy.

Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

The passive voice is to be ignored.

Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

Having gone over that list you can probably detect several "errors" above. It's easy to slip into these habits and even professionals do it. Be sure to attempt proper spelling and grammar usage. Not only is it proper netiquette, but it also helps convey your point more succinctly. Ah, there's another one.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Let's now say that your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization are all perfect. You are ready to campaign for your business or yourself. That means competition, and where's there's competition, there are usually rules in place to emerge the victor. It is here I will reference you to the included picture so that you may be a better case-maker and avoid logical fallacies. Please review this list of common logical fallacies so that you will be better able to overcome the rebuttals of others (or prevent them altogether). D'oh! I derped. Here I go slipping into the habits above! Again. Above again. See?!
[fallacy chart here, if possible hyperlink it to the source page]
Can you think of any statements you have made that succumb to one of these logical fallacies? What about your least/favorite politician? I certainly have employed some of these! It's difficult and takes practice, but once mastered the ability to communicate will be yours to command. With that you will conquer the hearts, minds, wallets, curiosities, or fascinations of those around you.
Language is what makes us, us. It literally defines us. We use it to express intangible things in a way that makes them concrete. Be wary of how you and others use it. What does it convey if your business has Kwik in its name instead of Quick? What does it mean when a politician or spokesman uses new or obscure words to convey thoughts or shift the emotion on a topic? Will you be able to catch it and reclaim it? To use it to your advantage? If not, over time it could end up being incrementally adjusted with non-the-wiser like the barn's words in Animal Farm.
Though in its own way it will always happen, won't it? Even if not in a political dystopia, our modern and corporate world affect the words we use every day as well.
(click figure 1)
Hmmm...well shucks. I suppose we'll just have to do our best to remain literate, conscious, and curious as a society!
(click figure 2)
In parting I leave you with these words of wisdom: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly. Even if they could, remember that all generalizations are bad.



The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Heh, a look "behind the curtain" as it seems one of my raw notes from the draft was left in the published version and the figures don't necessarily match up to the order of the pictures above. That aside if any of you want to see the full-sized version of the Logical Fallacy poster:

It's free to download, print, and share with others.

Stop It

One of my college instructors told us to use those big fifty dollar words every chance that comes available. I told him that 3/4 of the people won't understand and then we turn into dictionaries and all high falutin' and stuff. He really didn't have a good response to that, so I won't post it. He still insisted.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Yew's one-a them-thar ejumacated folk, ain'tche? We don't take kindly to thems what don't take kindly 'round chere. Iffins yew wanna co-myunny-cate proper-like then yew haveta speak to those'uns own words. Yew do that 'n I gare-un-tee yer point'd be made 'n yew'll smell purdier than the inside o' my momma's purse walkin' out.

Stop It

Yeah, just like that.


@ Mr. Morgan:

Re: "Don't abbrev., et. al."


Yrs ago, communication professionals suggested writing at a 6th grade level. Wonder what it is now?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I believe I remember a staffer saying in a response to something else that their articles are written at a fifth grade level.


Care to try for fourth? YIKES!


Re: "What does it mean when a politician or spokesman uses new or obscure words to convey thoughts or shift the emotion on a topic?"

Reminded me of the discussion in "Nineteen Eighty-Four" regarding "Newspeak."

When you control the language, you control their thoughts and therefore the people.

Double plus good Brother.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

In marketing you are told to repeat things like your phone number three times so it is retained. Repetition plays a huge role in our education and communication. "Head On" is a rather famous commercial that illustrates this. For politics, that is why newsletters are sent out with talking points. If I can get my constituents to repeat a certain phrase like "job lock", to those who don't pay as much attention they will hear it from me, see/hear/read it in the news, and have a follow repeat it. Three times from three sources. Then it must be true and I self-justify whatever I want.


Reminds me:

Lenin noted: The Russian serfs didn't know that they were being oppressed until the Bolsheviks told them and educated them.

Also, my late father-in-law who grew up a sharecropper's son in OK, used to say that they didn't know how poor they were until someone told 'em. :)

When I meet someone for the first time I often repeat their name mentally three times while looking at them. It helps to retain their name.