Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rot in hell, you lying cheat

My previous post explored Latinate vs Germanic words, the former being generally longer and more complex, and more likely to express abstractions.

Understanding this is critical to effective business writing, and so I want to return to it.

Novelist and marketer Corrine Jackson has written a good piece on this. Anglo-Saxon and Latinate words have a very different sound and feel to them, she writes:
  • concrete
  • shorter
  • guttural/blunt
  • “of the body”
  • feeling words
  • abstract
  • polysyllabic
  • elevated diction
  • “of the mind”
  • thinking words
If you are trying to connect emotionally with a reader or audience, your word selection should veer toward the Germanic. Her example:
“I slept with your best friend,” he said.
“I hope you putrefy in hell, you prevaricating cheat.” she shouted. “I’m glad to be emancipated from you.”
“I slept with your best friend,” he said.
“I hope you rot in hell, you lying cheat.” she shouted. “I’m glad to be free of you.”
I doubt you'll need to express those thoughts in your next white paper, but with this insight you can begin to tailor your message to convey what you intend. As Jackson notes, "Since the reader has to pause and think through the meaning of those multi-syllabic words, you are slowing your reader’s reaction to the scene."

Do you have to know the history of every word? No, but you can see how many syllables a word has and whether it's describing something abstract or concrete.

Check out her list of Germanic and Latinate words here.

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