Everything Language and Grammar

Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Simple, Direct Language Is Always the Best Choice!

Posted by languageandgrammar on August 3, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I know it’s been a while, but we’re still here!

And what better way to come back from a break than by focusing on the most important way to improve communication: Keep it simple and direct.

Seriously, communication that is riddled with extra words, unnecessarily complicated language, and indirect thoughts (which seems to be every work email being sent today!) is muddled, boring, and difficult to comprehend.

On the other hand, every communication that is stripped of unnecessary words, simplified, and direct is a pleasure to read and easy to understand.

For more information, please see a writing tip that I wrote for my day job: Plain Language Is Not Boring Language.

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How to Deal with Nasty People

Posted by languageandgrammar on October 9, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

mean person pointing

We have to deal with all kinds of people during our daily lives, so we need to know how to deal with them. Most are easy to communicate with, but it takes special care to communicate with those who are unpleasant or downright nasty.

A syndicated column from Chicago Tribune columnist Alexia Elejald-Ruiz (How to deal with nasty people) might give a few tips.

The two that I think might be most effective are not getting into an argument with the nasty person (I have a rule that I only talk to rational people!) and making the person repeat an unkind statement.

It takes quite a person to insult someone twice in a row.

(Image from demotivationalposters.org)

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Anonymous or Unnamed Source

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 17, 2008

Not every post on this blog is as simple being correct or incorrect. Sometimes, it’s about clarification to ensure accurate communication, and I think that we could use some clarification about the use of the adjectives anonymous and unnamed when making reference to sources for news stories.

While both anonymous source and unnamed source might technically be correct ways to talk about a reliable source who prefers to not be quoted by name, there are difference connotations for the terms. Anonymous implies that no one knows who the source is–it’s an unknown source. An unnamed source implies that the reporter knows who the source is (and presumably believes that the source is reliable) and chooses to respect the source’s request to not be credited for the story.

That’s why it’s best for those who are doing the reporting to use the term unnamed source rather than anonymous source when they would like the audience to believe the story being reported.

If that’s not reason enough for clarification of the terms, then think about how a person who has been criticized by a nameless source reacts to such criticism. Invariably, he or she responds with a comment along the lines of I don’t give any credence to stories based on anonymous sources, not I don’t give credence to stories based on unnamed sources.

Sarah Palin recently reacted that way in a yahoo news story (Palin denounces anonymous sources as “cowardly“). She did this because anonymous implies a lack of knowledge by everyone of who the source is, and the other simple implies that just we, readers, don’t know that name of the person.


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Poor Communication or Poor Taste Test?

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 24, 2008

Ok, I’ll admit it. This is another post that’s more of an off-topic rant than a true language or grammar post, but, hey, there must have been some lack of communication for my informal Pepsi taste test to go the way it did. That’s a good enough reason for this post to end up on my language blog!

Before I get to the details of the taste test, I’ll need to give a little background information. About ten months ago, I read a story about Kosher Pepsi and Kosher Coca-Cola. The article explained that high fructose corn syrup had replaced pure sugar as a sweetener around 1990 (I don’t remember the exact year) but that the Kosher colas still contained pure sugar. That explains why I’ve thought that the cola that I drank when I was younger tasted crisper and cleaner than the current soda, so I’ve been waiting for Passover with breathless anticipation.

After stocking up with six 2-liter bottles of Kosher Pepsi one day last week, I raced home, dropped a few ice cubes into a glass, and poured a glass of Kosher Pepsi. As I was lifting the carmel goodness toward my lips, I was ready to be transported to the days of my youth.

Mission aborted. The Kosher Pepsi tasted like, well, every other Pepsi that I’d had in the past 18 years. I was shocked. It must have just been me.

With that in mind, I decided to have an informal, unscientific taste test at work–Kosher Pepsi versus ordinary Pepsi. With paper cups half filled with ice, I poured multiple samples of each. This is where the lack of communication came in. The question was simple: Which do you think is made with sugar, and which do you think is made with corn syrup? Simple enough, right? Apparently not.

One person said I don’t think you should have used ice even though I used an equal amount of ice in all samples. I’m not sure what that had to do with anything anyway. Someone else said This one tastes as if it came out of a can, which, to be fair, was a legitimate comment even though it didn’t answer my question. (A true scientific test would have had both either coming from a can or coming from a bottle.)

A common response was I like this one better, which answered the question as well as Do you have any pretzels? would have answered it since this wasn’t about preference but, rather, about whether it’s possible to tell sugar from corn syrup. A particularly well-informed participant, after carefully tasting both samples, asked Why are we doing this again? Drink first–ask questions later. One of the most unusual responses was Do you mean that Jewish people can’t eat corn? Since I know that’s not the case, perhaps our new blog friend, Rabbi Sarah (Frume Sarah’s World), might be able to help explain why corn syrup isn’t Kosher for Passover.

One of the few people who understood the purpose of the taste test and the question asked was someone who, oddly enough, can’t tell the difference between Pepsi and Diet Pepsi. It’s a good thing that I called him out of an important meeting for that type of expertise. Yes, I actually paged him over the building intercom. (The conversation went something like this: He asked You paged me for this? I replied Yes, get the hell up here.) By the way, he correctly identified the Kosher Pepsi, which is more than I can say about myself.

Maybe Kosher Coke is better.


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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If A Blog is Written in the Woods…

Posted by languageandgrammar on December 13, 2007

…and no one reads it, then is it still a blog?

What I’m trying to say is that I know that it takes a while to become established in the blog community, and since you’ve got to start somewhere, this is it. Let me tell you a little about what to expect in the blog.

The title of the blog, of course, is language and grammar, so that’s what most of the posts will be about. Notice, though, that the name of the blog is not boring language and grammar, so it’s  not going to be dry, monotonous, and bland as a sixth-grade English class on a Friday afternoon.

The posts will be light, interesting, and full of examples taken from everyday conversations, television, the Internet, and newspapers. The posts will also go beyond grammar rules–although those are important and will be include–since good communication goes beyond grammar rules.

 I could go on, but one of the rules about good communication is knowing when to stop.


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