Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Lessons from Benjamin Franklin

I read this excellent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and I wanted to post a link to it here in my blog. I think most of us don't really reflect on our own styles of writing or communication, but I'm one of the oddballs who does. I think about who influenced how I write, why I write the way I do, and I try to be conscious in how I state my opinions. I identified very strongly with Franklin's statement about how he stopped using words such as "undoubtedly" or "certainly" when whatever he was saying could indeed be disputed, regardless of how small the possibility. I adopted this practice starting in high school when my history teacher pointed out how it was imposing on the reader your own values by using such words, which also include "interestingly" and the like. Unless you are consciously attempting to sway a reader or listener to your own beliefs, it's presumptuous to think that the reader will not doubt or will find something as interesting as you do. In later years, I began to reflect even more on how I say things. I won't lie; I love to share my opinions, some of them less educated than others. The reason for increasing my reflection was on account of one of my linguistic anthropology classes where we learned that in some First Nations cultures, there is actually a suffix used in the language to signify the equivalent of "in my humble opinion." Elders specifically, though respected and considered to be wisdom, will not presume to be experts in anything and will state their opinions or lessons under the belief that it is true to their understanding and experience, but they are not absolute authorities. I suppose I should quit rambling and post the article. Here it is!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on superlatives (try to contain your excitement!).

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