The door in the photograph looked quite calm to me and not at all alarmed.
Is there another way of wording this statement? Probably. But it would probably be a wordier statement to get the same message across.
Do doors have emotions?
The long and short of it is that we know what this sign means. The door pictured here cannot experience emotion, hence it cannot feel alarmed. We, the readers, know this and so we apply the meaning that makes most sense without really thinking about it.
The English language is a strange affair at times. Meaning is usually gathered from the words we use in the literal sense; the words and the order they are placed in a sentence tell you what the sentence as a whole means. But we don’t talk and write literally, neither do we hear or read, and consequently understand, literally.
I take it you are catching my drift so far? (I’m not really taking anything or expecting you to catch a drift, but I presume you know what I mean.) Continue reading →
Language is what we rely on to understand something we are being told. We expect to know what it means. The only way we can do that is if the giver of the information delivers it clearly.
Your choice of words, the sequence you put them in and the structure of your sentences will set the feel and flavour of your writing as well as making it legible and intelligible.
Making ourselves understood
Some time ago I was listening to the radio and an official from the Coastguard Service was talking about deploying their ‘fixed-wing assets’. It took me a few seconds to realise she meant aircraft.
Specialist language is fine when you are talking to colleagues in your own profession, or when writing for a book – or a magazine – with a specific area of interest, but a novel needs to be more far-reaching than that. As writers we want to reach the widest audience possible.
Someone mentioned the film, ‘Synecdoche, New York’ to me the other day. I’d never heard of it. I’d never heard the word synecdoche either so (as it was such a tantalising word) I decided to look it up – of course.
That’s what we writers and readers do because we want to extend our repertoire of words and understanding.