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This chapter is from the book

Additional Support for You

For additional support, I have included eight words that Dr. Frank Luntz has complied from his research. These are words that have become powerful in the past ten years. The following list displays the words and briefly describes why they are powerful additions to your word arsenal.

  1. Consequences: n. The phenomenon that follows, caused by a previous phenomenon.
  2. Impact: n. A forceful consequence that causes listeners to assume that they will see and feel a measurable difference. Speaking about potential solutions or best effort is no longer good enough; people want results.
  3. Impact: v. To have an effect upon, to cause listeners to assume that they will see and feel a measurable difference. Speaking about potential solutions or best effort is no longer good enough; people want results.
  4. Diplomacy: n. A subtle, skillful, peaceful, nondramatic solution to problems. People are tired of drama, anxiety, and tension; they want leadership in diplomacy.
  5. Dialogue: n. The discussion of diplomatic issues.
  6. Reliability: n. The quality of being dependable in a way that was expected or better.
  7. Mission: An authentic and genuine purpose.
  8. Commitment: Dedication to what one promised.

In our American culture, a growing trend involves converting words that are nouns into verbs. Verbed has made its way into the mainstream and is used in everyday language. Some instances of this relate more to social media. The social networking site Facebook has also seen its name itself become a verb used to describe the action of communication. Facebooking someone now means sending a message or posting to someone’s Wall. (Although my family believes that I am addicted to the social media site, they can be assured that, at all family functions, I will be the one taking all the photos and will later Facebook the photos. They will have clear copies, taken from a different perspective, for themselves for eternity.) Likewise, in the days before Facebook, to say you would “tag” someone meant something entirely different.

Another example of converting a noun to a verb is the search engine Google. Don’t know the answer to something? Then Google it. The same can be said for texts. The action of sending a text has become shortened to the verb texting.

Especially for the millennial generation (born after 1970), people don’t talk much on the phone anymore—they text each other. Although texting is fine for quick impersonal communications, it should never substitute for professional communication. This phenomenon of turning nouns into verbs means that the English language is constantly evolving and changing. Style manuals are outdated before they even hit the shelves, which is why this book is not a style manual: It does not attempt to identify these urbane, hip, or chic fad words. Instead, it includes a number of nouns that are now commonly accepted action verbs in today’s business culture. Consider these examples:

silo

email

SPAM

message

siloed

emailed

spammed

messaged

The impact of action/power verbs and how they are woven into our collective conscience is evident in the names advertisers use for their products. For everyday items, we associate certain products with action verbs, as in these examples: Accord car model, Act mouthwash, Agree shampoo, Allure ski product, Ban deodorant, Budget Rent A Car, Converse tennis shoes, Dodge cars, Eclipse exercise machine, Endeavor spaceship, Edge shaving cream, Equal sugar substitute, Escalade Cadillac, Excel software, Glamour magazine, Gleem toothpaste, Google (company), Intuit software, Kindle e-reader, Marvel comics, Pilot pens, Pledge cleaner, Pioneer sound systems, Puff tissues, Quip (precursor to the fax machine), Raid bug killer, Shuffle iPod product, SPAM, Target store, and Vanish home cleaning product. These are just a few examples.

Over time, the inconsistency of English grammar has made it increasingly difficult for non-native speakers to learn English—even those who speak English as a first language often find it difficult to speak correctly. Some rules and styles are antiquated and not enforced. As a result, we have become lazy and are losing the war on poor grammar. English is a minefield of rules, and although I can assure you that this is not a style manual, it goes without saying that if you were to follow all the rules, you would spend a lifetime studying them. You’d also end up speaking a language that no normal person would understand. (And you’d be a complete bore.)

George Orwell wrote an essay in 1946 entitled “The Politics of the English Language,” in which he criticized the ugly and inaccurate use of the English language, particularly the bland use of passive verbs:

  • The passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the –ize and de– formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un– formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth. (Orwell, 1946)

As mentioned previously, the English language comes with many rules, and as with any rule, there are also exceptions, counterexceptions, special rules, do’s and don’ts, and other confusing situations. More than 60 different rules and variations of rules exist for verbs alone. After you have learned the rules, you still have to follow exceptions. For example, consider the word lightning used as a verb. We say that it is “thundering and lightning all night”; it is the only exception to the rule that –ing can be added to the base verb to produce the –ing form. We do not say or write “It thundered and lightninging all night,” nor do we say or write “It “thundered and lightning all night.” As another exception to the rules, we say that we “relayed a message” but “relaid a carpet” (Crystal, 1995, p. 205).

For all my former English teachers and the dedicated writers of the grammar books on linguistic style and theory who will wonder why this book says nothing about active and passive voice, conjugation, and transitive or intransitive usage, that is your job. This guide is merely a road map to help individuals move toward success in everyday communications.

I am not excusing people from their responsibility and duty to learn the language correctly. However, there is a time and place for everything. Noam Chomsky, perhaps the most influential figure in the theoretical linguistics of the English language, recently conceived the goal of linguistics (all the rules, principles, and regulations) to be a description of the mental grammar of native speakers.

Chomsky perceives linguistics to be the system of all these rules, to characterize the mental structure that underlies our ability to speak and understand the language. Furthermore, Chomsky hypothesizes that humans have an innate language ability that enables children to quickly acquire a mental glimmer when they are exposed to a particular language. It’s pretty amazing to think that a child learns an entire language by listening and observing some nonverbal cues. By the age of 5, a person has about 70 percent of lifetime vocabulary and linguistic rules learned by listening and observation.

Chomsky (and this is the last reference to a theorist or an intellectual, I promise) draws a distinction between competence in a language and performance in a language. Competence is the underlying knowledge of the theory and applications, whereas performance is the actual use of that knowledge. This book doesn’t assume anything. It provides a performance tool for one part of the language: power verbs.

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