Monday, December 20, 2010

Knowing your language so you can better create change

I had a great discussion today with a fellow campaigner about writing.

She expressed frustration at how her fluency would fluctuate: her ability was highest when she was passionate about the topic in question. She was perplexed about the mysterious factors that enable good writing. I sympathised.

This conversation affirmed in me an intuition I have had for a long time: how important a conscious use of the tools of our language is, especially for those who seek to create social change the importance of using our language tools consciously, especially when seeking to create social change. Conscious understanding of language allows us to critically analyse texts that litter our daily lives, and discern the strategies that motivate the writing/framing of these texts. Critical analysis also allows one to recognise persuasive techniques, so that he/she is less easily manipulated.

The first step in conscious use and understanding of language is being able to recognise the use of rhetorical devices. It's like knowing your tool box: a screwdriver would just be an oddly shaped stick if you didn't recognise it and be able to visualise its use (the rhetorical techniques I am using here are 2nd person to create immediacy and analogy to use a familiar example to illustrate the importance of a point). Likewise with language. Explaining the function of rhetorical devices has been done very well elsewhere, such as the top 20 figures of speech at