Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Value The Words You Use

The words we use, the way we say them, the syntax of how they are put together, and the representations of the metaphors and symbols we use within, all are representative of the thoughts in our heads. So if you want to get a better understanding of how someone is thinking then listen carefully to the language they use.

As my study moves deeper into cognitive linguistics the more I understand about language and communication, and exactly what is being communicated to me. Because when you look a little closer people tend to tell you far more than they may be aware of.

I will often take time to study a piece of communication to see exactly what message is being communicated. Here’s an example. Have a read of this extract which comes from a report issued to me by a Local Authority Planning Department, in respect to a proposed development for a small block of flats:

“The block plan does not show the proposed development in relation to properties on **** Avenue. However it appears that the proposed development will result in an overbearing impact to the occupiers of these dwellings.”

First read, and the meaning probably is quite straight forward.

Now read it again and look for a deeper meaning – what can you gleam from the words used, the order, the syntax. Because when I read it, it suggests to me that this is nothing but ‘fluff’ or ‘filler’, and that the person writing the report has not carried out her job properly.

Let’s break down the statement.

The first sentence sets the scene – it provides the information for the statement that follows. The second sentence provides the opinion of this person following consideration of the first sentence. The word ‘however’ links yet at the same time dismisses the first sentence, leading to the conclusions of the second.

If you look at the words used, in the first sentence, ‘does not show’ means that information is not there. Yet, then ‘it appears’. So the author has hallucinated something which is not there, and then goes on to state an opinion based on this hallucination. Without the required information how can they offer an opinion?

So I would question whether this person is actually doing their job, as it is clear to me that they are forming opinions without the true facts to support them. Or they are just providing 'fluff' and 'filler' to a report. And as this statement has a massive financial and business impact (via any planning decision on the proposed development) I would question whether this is acceptable.

I wonder if the author of the extract would have valued the words they used a little more if they had read this blog post first. Do you value the words that you use?

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