Monday, April 27, 2015

Because faddishness

The proudly ill-educated are giddily following the current fad of using because as a preposition. For example:

“I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination.” (Source)

Some ditzy writers and editors at The Atlantic seem to think it’s cute. So do a lot of dudes and bimbos on the internet. But if you are a grown-up, in mind as well as in body, you will abstain.

The Takeaway: If you want to be taken seriously, if you want to preserve your self-respect, try not to imitate this latest puerile fad brought to you by the people who popularized having said that and at the end of the day.

See disclaimer.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

You can say a lot in only 100 words (8)

Another writer who does a lot with 100 words is Butler Shaffer (pictured), a professor of law. In his well-constructed article titled “The Foundations of Our Extinction” is this concise paragraph:

What passes as “news” in today’s culture is largely centered upon hostilities between or among persons or events that can be exploited for the purpose of further empowering the state not only to resolve the immediate conflict, but to mobilize the energies of massive numbers of persons to be galvanized into demanding a governmental response. If, for instance, a white police officer shoots an unarmed black man, those who identify themselves with the race of the victim will likely react with a more intense anger than might be the case if a white policeman shot an unarmed white man. (99 words)

Notice also that, although Mr. Shaffer uses two very long sentences (55 and 44 words long, respectively), his good sentence structure makes his meaning clear.

The Takeaway:  If you want to make your writing more concise, keep reading writers who are good at writing concisely. To see the earlier pieces in this series, search on “Mr. Clarity” and “You can say a lot in only 100 words.” For even more examples of good concision, search on “Mr. Clarity” and “Concise writing is usually clear writing.”

See disclaimer.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Avoiding redundancy (6)

Originally created

“Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.” (Source)

Something can be created only once; therefore, “originally created” is redundant.

Potential red flag

“Rising Inventories = Potential Red Flag” (Source)

A red flag is an “indicator of potential problems”; therefore, “Potential Red Flag” is redundant.

A snow event

“Parking During a Snow Event” (Source)

Snow (a form of precipitation) is an event; therefore, “Snow Event” is redundant.

Snow plowing events

“The City of Hudson has a specific ordinance that deals with snow plowing events that require all residents to remove their vehicles from all City streets, roadways and city-maintained alleys.” (Source)

Snow plowing is an event; therefore; therefore “snow plowing events” is redundant.

The Takeaway: Whether you are speaking or writing, be careful to avoid redundancy. If you use a lot of redundancies, your intelligent listeners or readers may conclude that you are ill-educated, stupid or careless.

See disclaimer.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Unintentional hedging (8)

Here are two more examples of people unintentionally hedging their statements.

A witness in the George Zimmerman trial:

“One guy on top in the black hoodie was pretty much just throwing down blows on the guy kind of MMA [mixed martial arts]-style.” (Boldface added.) (Source)

And a restaurant employee being interviewed by the press:

“They came into the restaurant itself and a lot of customers were kind of scared,” one restaurant employee told Fox 8 news in Cleveland. “They were threatening employees, they were threatening me and some customers.” (Boldface added.) (Source)

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

See disclaimer.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Unintentional hedging (7)

Here’s a quick and easy way to write and speak more clearly: Don’t hedge unintentionally. For example, don’t unintentionally use kind of. Unintentional hedging diminishes, undermines or negates your message. Here are three quick examples:

Regarding Linda Ronstadt’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ms. Ronstadt’s producer said:
“When certain people got in, before Linda, I was kind of outraged.” (Source)
Unintentional hedging is not surprising on Tumblr:
But even the Washington Post, whose writers and editors presumably are grown up and literate, sometimes indulges in this nonsense:
“Everything today is kind of horrible, so here are some penguins dressed up as Santa Claus” (Source)
If you think something is horrible, say “It’s horrible,” not “It’s kind of horrible.” If you don’t think something is horrible, don’t use the word horrible at all; use a word that says what you really mean to say. Saying what you really mean to say will create the impression that you are literate, not semi-literate.

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.” When I hear a public speaker do that, I stand up and walk out. Life is too short to be wasted on reading or listening to semi-literate slobs.

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