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Communication

104 STASHED IDEAS

If sentences have enough life and interest in them, they will hold the reader's attention as it moves along.

A good lesson for any writer is to make each sentence worth reading, leading the reader to the following sentence. Write not only in sentences but write with sentences.

Reese R. (@reeser291) - Profile Photo

@reeser291

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Communication

A sentence is a living line of words with sense and sound. Beginner writers are often preoccupied with what they are trying to say and less about how that something looks and sounds. They focus on content and forget about form - how they say it.

A sentence must be felt by the reader. A feeling is something that grows and fades like any living thing. A sentence should unfold in space and time, not reveal itself at once.

What celebrated writers can teach us

George Orwell thought a good sentence means trimming as many words as possible, Virginia Woolf found power in verbs, and Baldwin desired 'a sentence as clean as a bone.'

We can learn from celebrated writers that a good sentence is plain, undecorated and visible. It gets its power from the tension between the ease of its phrasing and the surprise of its thought. Each added word reduces alternatives and narrows the reader's expectations. But up to the last word, the writer can throw a curveball.

Contemporary writers leave space and silence between their sentences. It helps the reader see the full stop. Sentences are not chained together like in the past.

Sentences written a few hundred years ago often started with a whereof or a howsobeit, to continue an unfinished thought. They used many conjunctive adverbs - connecting words like moreover or indeed. Today's readers can link sentences without them.

Verbs go beyond the "formal railway line of sentence" to help people "feel or think or dream", wrote Virginia Woolf. During the second world war, she wrote this sentence in her diary: "Thinking is my fighting." Apart from the possessive pronoun, it consists of verbs or verb forms.

But like any skilled writer, Woolf varies sentence lengths. She alternates her long, elastic thought refrains with shorter fragments.

Many contemporary writers treat sentences as separate thoughts, then joins them with strong comparisons or contrast. This makes the sentences at the start and end of paragraphs vital.

You can change the entire tone of a sentence by shifting it from the end of a paragraph to the start of a new paragraph, or vice versa.

The instrumental complaint is used to solve problems - for example, confronting your partner about overspending. This type of complaint focuses on the impact of the problem and creating a plan for change.

Guide for complaining:

  • Limit your complaining to avoid dampening moods.
  • Complain only when you can affect real and positive change.
  • Consider if a different strategy to complaining will work.
  • Limit your exposure to complaining.
The psychology of complaining

Complaining means expressing dissatisfaction with a negative situation: bad weather, poor economic performance, interfering in-laws.

There are different types of complainers:

  • Chronic complainers: Those who never seem to be satisfied.
  • Venters: They are focused on expressing their own emotional dissatisfaction. By showing anger or frustration, they are seeking attention so that they feel validated.

One major downside to complaining is that it dampens everyone's mood.

  • Large groups having a ‘social music’ experience lead to big changes related to closeness and bonding.
  • Music also releases dopamine, which regulates our mood and is a big reason music has been eternally popular.
  • Music, apart from being a common way to experience pleasure, also works in creating a sense of group identity, cementing its place in social gatherings and families.
The Bond Created By Music
  • We are literally wired for music and even have a dedicated part of our brain, especially for processing music.
  • Listening to music and singing together directly impacts the neurochemicals of the brain and releases endorphins.
  • Singing together is an effective way to build social bonds, as there is something about music that makes it great for closeness or connections.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to language learning.

Available language methods:

  • Textbooks with written exercises.
  • An all-audio method like Language Transfer.
  • An online language course taught by an expert teacher.
  • A language tutor, where you book online lessons through Italki.
  • Apps such as Duolingo, Memrise and Babbel, vocabulary-building apps such as Drops, a spaced-repetition app like Anki, or Lingualism.
  • Lexilogos offers courses, dictionaries and resources.
  • The Open University offers a free course on how to learn a language.
  • YouTube and podcasts.

At the beginning of learning a language, your goal could be to read a new alphabet or some basic phrases to introduce yourself. As you improve, you can add other goals.

Deciding on goals include how to get there. Consider what you want to get out of learning a new language. Do you want to chat with locals, or do you want to read untranslated novels? Clarity on your goals will help you to think strategically about the methods that will help you most.

Learning a new language

Learning a language is often presented as a task with a one-size-fits-all solution. But learning a new language is working out the goals and strategies specific to you.

Every language is different and presents its own challenges. When you learn a new language, forget about fluency. Set achievable, short-term and measurable goals that will give you a sense of achievement.

Intermediate learners often reach a plateau when the gains become more marginal, less immediately rewarding and harder to see.

Targeted and achievable goals will help with focus and motivation. If you are unsure what to do next, hop on a Zoom call with a teacher and ask them to assess your performance to point out what you need to work on next.

When you hit your goals and grow your knowledge of the language, it's time to find content that will help you improve.

  • Consistently expose yourself to language that's just above your current level so your brain can fill in the gaps and raise your language level.
  • Make the most of foreign-language TV shows and movies. Reality shows are easier to grasp and has some cultural benefits.
  • Talk to yourself in the new language. Talk yourself through whatever you're doing.
  • Keep a diary or notebook in your new language of events of the day.
  • You can also record videos of yourself speaking the target language.

The human brain has only a small amount of short-term memory, with the average brain holding only about seven chunks of information at a time, for about 20 seconds.

One can make use of chunking related items together and using clear headers and sections to enhance clarity. Breaking large paragraphs into smaller chunks of information makes them easy to retain for the reader.

We all see product and service makers ask for ratings, feedback and check-ins in order to improve their service better.

A business writing can also follow the same user-experience feedback process to improvise their content, clarity or tone.

The more tools, options or details a reader has, the less likely they are to use the same. More stuff only adds clutter and reduces clarity.

As people only read about 20 percent of the words they encounter, it makes sense to get rid of vague, rambling emails and present the reader with short, to the point paragraphs and brief context, with links to longer discussions.

The interface designers at Amazon are experts in providing an intuitive, often exciting digital experience. They start with the end goal in mind and ask the following questions:

  1. What is the problem that we are trying to solve?
  2. Who are our users and what are they trying to do?
  3. What assumptions are being made?
  4. How can this thing be simpler?

We can apply these techniques by asking the same questions towards ourselves and our readers.

Drowned In Information

Our coworkers are often not able to read or understand our messages due to the sheer barrage of information already trying to get their attention. There are text messages, emails, document updates and other notifications vying for eyeballs and mindshare.

To be successful in conveying our message, we need to design it in such a way that can grab people’s attention. Marketers are experts in designing words that, based on research and data, make people stop and take action. Their tricks can be applied to our memos, emails, reports and messages so that your teammates actually end up reading them.

Most of us read in an F pattern over the computer screen or mobile, where we skim information and read less and less as we scroll down the page. Professional writers use eye-catching headers, which are left-oriented and assist the eye ball movement of the reader.

We can use the same technique and structure our writings with headings and subheadings, using meaningful titles that help the reader navigate with ease. We can make use of bullet points and hyperlinks to further draw the reader's attention.

Describing or showing is often better than telling. Visual stories have a high impact value in this attention-deficit age.

One can use visual aids like screenshots(annotated) to get the point across in a clear, informative way. This is helpful while providing step-by-step instructions or offering feedback on specific areas of a product design.

Just like various accessibility features like auto-complete and voice control, initially made for the disabled, are now widely used by all, it is good to provide information in a simple manner (8th-grade level language) to be easily readable.

It also helps to write in an active voice and use short sentences. The ideal tone should be supportive and reassuring, avoiding any irony or sarcasm.

Eye-tracking software shows that the brightly coloured, large button often is the most noticed one. We can utilize this trick to showcase the important information in a clear, non-cluttered format, highlighting or formatting it in such a way that the coworkers have no doubt about what is required from them.

It also helps to link the relevant document links and due dates for ready reference, even if those were already communicated earlier.

If we aren’t talking about the important stuff from the word go, people stop paying attention, usually in about 10 seconds.

Newspaper headline stories follow the ‘inverted pyramid’ technique where the most critical information is on the first paragraph. One can organize an article or product interface in such a way that if the reader only reads the first few sentences, the crucial information is still communicated.

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