Recently, I realized (or, rather, I was taught) that if you drop the initial A from most words that begin with A, your listeners will still totally understand you.
You see, my 3-year-old son, Foster, is a HUGE fan of superheroes. All superheroes. He doesn’t care about Marvel vs DC. I mean, he will even wear an Avengers shirt with some Justice League shoes! I know, right?
As you may know, or you may have gleaned from the image above, the battle-cry of the superhero team, The Avengers, is: Avengers, Assemble! This is usually shouted by one of the team members when it is apparent that the combined might of the entire team is needed to defeat the foe at hand.
Foster is generally easy to understand, but he is only three years old. Sometimes, it takes a bit of repeating, combined with some quick mental analysis, to fully comprehend what he is saying. This is especially true when he is using his toddler logic to explain something that a toddler can’t logically understand. One thing he says very clearly, albeit not entirely correctly, is The Avengers battle-cry: ‘Vengers, ‘Semble!
‘Parently, it is ‘mazingly easy to understand many multi-syllable A-words when you drop that initial A. I am immediately reminded of any number of colorful Midwestern characters from my youth in Ohio, all of whom had their own unique speech pattern. Even my dad had some affectations of his own, such as calling a couch a damport (instead of a davenport) and combining ain’t with the subject of the sentence to form a double-contraction; for example: he ain’t become hain’t, she ain’t becomes shain’t, and (my personal favorite) it ain’t becomes tain’t.
I try to keep this kind of unique speechifying in mind when I’m writing any kind of dialogue. Just one more way to add a good dollop of characterization without adding a bunch of description.
I kinda hope Foster never ‘bandons this particular speech pattern, ‘though it might not ‘ways be ‘ceptable in modern society.
However, it is totally ‘dorable!
Kai’s Tech Writing Blog features a wonderfully amusing and highly accurate post detailing a simple problem and providing a comical resolution.
Kai basically lays out
five four occurrences that are common to technical communicators. Sometimes you 1) make a list, and then 2) number that list, and then 3) add or remove elements from that list, leaving you to 4) forget to update body copy references to the total number of list items. Kai’s inspiration for solving this potential issue?
Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch!
If you’re not getting at least 10% of your professional continuing education from reading Cracked.com, then you’re not getting continually educated. Read their 7 Commonly Corrected Grammar Errors (That Aren’t Mistakes) and then tell me in the comments if you think I’m wrong.
So much awesome
Mark Nichol’s post, Attribute Tags and Their Alternatives, over at DailyWritingTips struck a resounding chord with me. I used to struggle with attribute tags. I just could not stand writing He said and She said over and over again.
Mark makes a good point about switching up the word choice, and that worked fine for me…for a while. I needed some other tool, but could not think of what it would be. Then I read an article in an old back-issue of Writer’s Digest.
The gist of the article was this: Drop the repetition of the word said and replace it with action. It is so simple, and yet so brilliant. I started using this method to flesh out my speakers.
“There’s no sign of wreckage,” said the Constable. “Are you sure you saw a ship come aground here, Pete? Or did you just see the bottom of a bottle?”
“Thomas, now, you know full-well I ain’t touched spirits since you was knee-high to I-dunno-what,” said Old Pete.
“Well, still…” said the Constable.
Old Pete tugged at his whiskey- and tobacco-stained whiskers and narrowed his storm-gray eyes. “Well? Still? That all you got to say to me after all these years?”
“Listen, Pete, all I meant was…” The constable tried in vain to straighten his badge, but the pin would need to be undone first. He’d have to fix that before the news crew arrived.
In this exchange, I used three instances of said to determine the order of speakers. Then, I dropped the said and chose not to replace it. It would have been easy to just have Old Pete scowl his rebuttal, but I chose to impart some character info during the dialogue. Pete is old and weathered, possessing a forceful personality. (Perhaps his anger is like a storm brewing that you hope never breaks until you’ve found shelter.)
I showed the young Thomas cowing immediately under the threat of Old Pete’s ire. Also, I decided to throw in the fact that the constable is perhaps more concerned with appearances and his own celebrity than he is the law.
And so, there you have it: a simple, effective and creative (fun!) alternative to he said, she said, he said again dialogue.
I’d Rather Be Writing has a great response (and image) to go with the report of Yahoo categorizing technical writing as the #1 laid-back career.
Supposedly, this revelation came to light according to CNN Money/PayScale, “who surveyed more than 40,000 American workers to compile a list of least stressful jobs.” I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting they didn’t speak to many technical writers in the group. I was probably EVERYONE ELSE voting tech writers as the most laid-back. (Back-handed compliment or professional jealousy at our ability to absorb stress to make us even stronger and more powerful?)
Granted, technical writing is not as stressful as my time in Army Intelligence, but I have found stress coming into play near the end of a project’s lifecycle, when I’m FINALLY brought into the fold to write all the Help, FAQs, some marketing blurbs, Quick Start Tutorials, maybe a voice-over script for a Flash demo, etc. Oh, and I first need to become a subject matter expert on the project. And I certainly do not have MONTHS to do all that!
This might be fun: Go on over to Yahoo’s 5 Low-Stress Career Options and see how you stack up against the mighty (relaxed) Technical Writer!