Sunday, November 29, 2015

Good Communication Counts...Everywhere

I once worked for William Safire, the late language columnist for the New York Times (and in his own words, vituperative, conservative political commentator).

I believe I agreed with exactly one of his opinions, (that lotteries represent regressive taxation, burdening those least able to afford them). Nothing else.

While those of us who reported to him were terrified of making the mistake that would wind up in his weekly column, he actually had only a few simple rules. Among them, go ahead and use split infinitives. (What's wrong with "to boldly go where no man has gone before?")

Just be clear, he told us. Learn a little about misplaced modifiers, consistency, and avoid jargon at all costs. And don't use cliches. We're not writing the King's English...we want to be clear for important reasons. Miscommunication can cause misunderstanding, conflict, errors, and in general is bad for business, government, and everyday living.

I fear social media will be the death of clear communication. It does matter whether you use two, too, or to. Or there, their, and they're. Or incomprehensible jargon and acronyms. Why does it matter? Because down the line we'll be isolated in confusion and frustration.

Here's a look at how poor language can impact (NO--"creeping nounism") damage businesses.


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