TU English

Twenty-First Century Linguistics and Writing Styles

Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist, linguist, and author, details on reasoning on how to reach a reader using proper wording and phrasing, as well as using common themes and ideas. He uses popular culture and humour to engage the audience in his lecture, including presidential quotes with grammatical errors and memes.

Pinker started off with humor about bad writing and how it is complex to set definitions of it. Is bad writing intentional, or is good writing hard to come by? He goes over theories, such as the idea that modern technology is often used as an excuse for causes of bad writing, but then goes on to explain that each generation has similar consistencies of bad writing.

One major topic that our friend Steve goes over is how language can be used. Some may say that using proper grammar is more of a guide than a rule, others may only care if the the point of the conversation or writing piece has been understood. Because language is constantly evolving, different rules can be applied in one instance that wouldn’t have applied in a different era. He discusses this throughout the lecture, including using examples of grammar rules that are now obsolete.

Another important takeaway from Pinker’s lecture was the discussion about Classic Prose and Professional Narcissism, where he discussed the reader being on an equal level with the author, and where writers may over-complicate their statements with complex wording to sound more professional. He discusses examples along with the simple English counterparts translated to show how simplification can dramatically change how the reader absorbed the message.

In a business context, making sure that the message is understood the way it was intended to is essential. Conveying the message in simplistic to-the-point manner is important, while using filler and extended versions of words can be more of a distraction and an inefficiency. On the other hand, when something is too simplistic, it isn’t suitable for use in a business setting. Kind of like Apple products, as seen below.

The pains of attempting to use an MacBook for presenting to an audience, needing far too many conversion cables, thus, the products are too simplistic and don’t include basic video output.