Monday, March 4, 2013

Unintentional hedging (6)

Here’s a quick and easy way to write and speak more clearly: Don’t hedge unintentionally.

Unintentional hedging diminishes, undermines or negates your message. For example, this recent headline in Mother Jones:

NRA’s Armed Security Guard Proposal Kind Of Popular

Normally I avoid critiquing headlines, because headline writers often must sacrifice grammar and good diction in order to keep headlines short. But this headline writer deliberately made his headline longer in order to use the trendy hedge kind of. 

Kind of and like have become mania expressions in recent years. Often you see people quoted in the press who seem unable to use a predicate adjective without putting kind of or like in front of it: He looked kind of horrible. I was kind of terrified. It was like catastrophic. He seemed kind of psychotic. It was kind of apocalyptic.

Many people use more than one kind of or like per minute. If you hedge that frequently, even obtuse listeners are going to wake up and notice it. When they do, they will receive this unintended message from you: “I’m not really saying anything. I’m just thinking out loud, and I’m not even sure of the thoughts. So, don’t listen to me.”

The Takeaway: Say what you mean. If you intend to hedge, hedge: “I’ll be there about four o’clock.” Otherwise, don’t hedge. If you say what you mean, you will earn more respect.

See this timely story about
grammar and professional success.

Update, March 7, 2013: Rand Paul, a U.S. politician, apparently has scored a political point against Eric Holder, another U.S. politician. Yesterday, Mr. Paul told the Washington Post, “I’ve kind of won my battle.” (Source)

See disclaimer.

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