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Repost: Some thoughts on writing and speaking

Language is no more than a medium. If it is perfectly clear and pure, we don’t notice it any more than we notice pure air when the sun is shining in a clear sky, or the taste of pure cool water when we drink a glass on a hot day. Unless the sun is shining, there is no brightness; unless the water is cool, there is no refreshment. The source of all our joy in the landscape, of the luxuriance of fertile nature, is the sun and not the air. Language is merely a medium for thoughts, emotions, the intelligence of a finely wrought brain, and a good mind will make far more out of a bad medium than a poor mind will make out of the best.

Language which expresses the thought with strict logical accuracy is correct language, and language which is sufficiently rich in its resources to express thought fully, in all its lights and bearings, is effective language. If the writer or speaker has enough words and forms at his disposal, he has to use them in a way that would be both correct and effective.

Since the first aim of speech is to be understood, the clearer you write the more easily and surely you will be understood. The clearer you write the more clearly you will understand yourself.

Language can’t be acquired, only tested, by analysis, and grammar is an analytic, not a constructive science. To improve the language we need to begin by teaching the mind to think.

Thought and speech are inseparable. Matter and expression are parts of one; style is a thinking out into language. This is literature; not “things”, but the verbal symbols of things; not on the other hand mere “words”; but thoughts expressed in language.

Words are the only currency in which we can exchange thought even with ourselves. Does it not follow, then, that the more accurately we use words the closer definition we shall give to our thoughts? Does it not follow that by drilling ourselves to write in a discerning manner we train our minds to clarify their thought?

Language can’t be acquired, only tested, by analysis, and grammar is an analytic, not a constructive science. To improve the language we need to begin by teaching the mind to think.

The right kind of language-teaching will also give us power, a skill in the use of words, which will enable us to frame advertisements which will draw business, letters which will win customers, and to speak in that elegant and forceful way.

Our language depends wholly on arrangement of words, and the key is the logical relationship. The mastery of the English language is almost the task of a lifetime. A few easy lessons will have no effect. We must create a habit of language study that will grow upon us as we grow older, and little by little, but never by leaps, shall we mount up to the full expression of all that is in us.

Till next time,

Gloria

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