Archive for the ‘Linguistic’ Category
Kendra Cherry gives a very nice overview of nine distinct communication channels apart from the words we choose:
Nonverbal communication plays an important role in how we convey meaning and information to others, as well as how we interpret the actions of those around us. The important thing to remember when looking at such nonverbal behaviors is to consider the actions in groups. What a person actually says along with his or her expressions, appearance, and tone of voice might tell you a great deal about what that person is really trying to say.
I love the fine distinctions. Master these and send ten different messages at once.
Dr. Jack Schafer is a psychologist and a retired Special Agent for the FBI. He specializes in what he calls “narrative analysis,” which entails examining the other-than-conscious motivations people have for choosing a particular word or phrase in a given context. He trains peace officers and others in this skill for interviewing suspects. He’s started to teach Just Plain Folks like you and me, though, and he’s taken a blogging spot (Let Their Words Do the Talking) on Psychology Today.
Every article I’ve read there has been awesome in its usefulness. (Cops aren’t big on theory. Theory can get you shot!) What got my attention, though, was his five-part series called “The Poor Man’s Polygraph:”
Short, to the point, extremely useful, easy to learn and implement. Go check it out!
In another installment of “Let’s Help Others To Take Seriously What We Write,” I’d like to offer a link to Solveig Haugland’s “OpenOffice.org Training, Tips, and Ideas” blog:
The key thing about many of these items, and useful grammar and punctuation in general, is they’re not just fancy-schmancy rules. They are important rules that affect the meaning of what you say. I think most people would agree is an important component of communication–controlling the meaning of what you’re writing.
Some of them don’t affect meaning, but do make it easier and more pleasant for your readers. That means they’re more likely to read your email, spec, or marketing blurb, and thus get the information you’re trying to convey.
Here are the high points. She goes on to explain them (and beautifully, I might add) in the body of the article.
- Use the word that is correct (the correct word, which helps your readers understand you, is always a good choice)
- Wherever possible without sounding dorky, put only in front of the thing it applies to.
- Keep your intransitive verbs off my body
- Lay off using lie incorrectly
- Dangling participles are as bad as you’ve heard.
- Few and less and more (but is less more?)
- Remember the comma.
- Cut down on the parenthetical phrases
- Forget you ever encountered ellipsis….unless you’re quoting a movie review…and leaving out the…bad parts…
- Hyphenation is important.
(For what it’s worth, I disagree with her about the serial comma. I think it’s important to use it. There are times when it matters a great deal for sake of clarity, and in those times when it doesn’t matter, it does no harm. Good habits are good habits.)
Go read — and learn well! — the rest: Top Ten Useful Grammar and Punctuation Points I Learned as a Techwriter and in Life in General (and Three to Ignore)
I challenge you to find a funnier typographical error than this one (follow the link):
Someone dear to me loves her thesaurus. When I read To A Thesaurus today on the Futility Closet blog, I thought of her. Then I thought of you guys! Here’s the first verse:
O precious code, volume, tome,
Book, writing, compilation, work,
Attend the while I pen a pome,
A jest, a jape, a quip, a quirk.
A recent article on the Lingformant blog points to some compelling new research on how we parse gestures:
Your ability to make sense of Groucho’s words and Harpo’s pantomimes in an old Marx Brothers movie takes place in the same regions of your brain, says new research funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health.
You can read the synopsis at Words, Gestures Are Translated by Same Brain Regions.
Sorry… there’s just no better title for this post. I’m talking about the punctuation mark that looks like : .
The high points are the following nine, though there are a few more:
- To introduce a list
- To introduce direct speech
- When showing an example
- To offer a conclusion
- To explain something more fully
- To Introduce a subtitle
- As a substitution for a conjunction
- To link independent clauses
- To Introduce a question
(Hey, I used one to introduce a list!)
Get the full story at The DumbLittleMan Guide to Colon Use.
In the same vein as my previous post on the use of commas, I once again offer you a way to make your writing appear more intelligent: How To Use An Apostrophe, from The Oatmeal (courtesy this post from LifeHacker). It’s a nice, simple, visual guide.
Personally, I think it’s still too complicated. According to Michael D. C. Drout, professor of Linguistics at Wheaton College and author of several of my favorite Modern Scholar Series lectures from Recorded Books, the apostrophe’s job is to indicate that one or more letters are missing. When you understand that English used to have a dative case which was marked with the suffix “-es”, and that languages tend to “lose” the last unstressed vowel in a word over time, you understand why we tag possessives with “‘s” now.
For your amusement, check out Apostrophe Abuse.
I once filled out an anonymous survey at work. My manager knew which one was mine. I asked him how he knew. He said it was the only one where everything was spelled and punctuated correctly.
That isn’t a slam on my co-workers, each of whom is a very intelligent person who communicates wonderfully in everyday informal speech. It’s just that my writing is better because I care more about it. My attitude is: if we want to be understood, we have to communicate clearly, even in writing; if we want to be taken seriously, we have to communicate clearly, even in writing; and if we want to think clearly, we have to communicate clearly, even in writing.
Even on Internet, where nobody knows you’re a dog, the way you present yourself and your language matters. It may matter even more online than in real life, because the way you use language is pretty much all you’ve got.
Consider this, too, while we’re at it: we’re NLPers. Neuro-Linguistic Programmers. As I’ve heard John Lavalle say, Linguistics is our middle name. If we’re going to call ourselves NLPers, we should pay attention to the L.
Today at Dumb Little Man, one of my favorite blogs, they posted an article on how to use the comma. There’s a great place to start. Here’s the list:
- To glue two sentences together
- To give additional information
- Writing a series of three or more words or phrases
- Non restrictive phrases
- Demanding a pause
- Setting off direct quotations
- After conjunctive adverbs
- Set off a direct address
- Parenthetical phrases
For a fuller explanation and some good examples, go read The DumbLittleMan Guide to Comma Use.
Incidentally, here’s another good, albeit short, article from Dumb Little Man: Impress Your Clients, Boss and Colleagues: How To Improve Your Business Writing
As I come across more goodies like this, I intend to post them. If you’ve got a favorite article on the use of, say, semicolons, apostrophes, or quote marks, drop me a note in the comments.