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Post two specific questions that your classmates can focus on when providing feedback on your essay. Attach your rough draft of Essay 3 to the post. You can find the Essay 3 Guidelines in the Assignme
Post two specific questions that your classmates can focus on when providing feedback on your essay. Attach your rough draft of Essay 3 to the post. You can find the Essay 3 Guidelines in the Assignments Overview page under the Start Here tab.
Feedback to Classmates: Is the author’s purpose clear? How did the author organize his comparison? Why is that the pattern effective (or would a different pattern be better suited to the topic)? What more could he do to strengthen the essay?
This essay is a comparison and contrast assignment that will compare two essays on a similar theme. Essays to analyze must be chosen from the list below. Your essay will let your reader (the class in this case) see the points that both essays are trying to make and your perspective on the topic.
You will submit a rough draft of your essay to the Writer's Workshop 2 for peer review feedback by Thursday of Week 5. The feedback will help inform your revision process.
In a separate document, describe your revision process by answering the questions in the Revision Worksheet for Essay 3. You will submit this document along with your essay in the Dropbox for this assignment.
The essays you choose to analyze must come from the following paired list. Select the category that interests you the most. You cannot mix and match essays from different categories.
Tannen, "But What do you Mean?" (p. 353) and Lutz, "The World of Doublespeak," (p. 363)
Look at how the authors present this topic. Does it add to your understanding or make you think of something related to the topic? Remember your essay must have a reader and a purpose in mind. In planning this essay, you must answer these questions:
- Why is this matter of interest to the individual to whom you are writing?
- What is your position on this topic?
- What are the key points you will use in developing your topic?
- What examples can you use from each text to develop your analysis? (Hint: you will have already done this in Discussion 9.)
Use these answers in writing your essay. Your essay will compare and contrast the two essays according to whatever criteria you set. Focus your essay on your purpose and provide examples and details from both essays in developing your points.
Upload the assignment to the Essay 3 Dropbox.
Essay 3 Rubric
The minimum length for this assignment is 750 words. This does not include the revision write-up.
Essay 3 Grading Criteria
CriteriaLevel 5Level 4Level 3Level 2Level 1
Introduction and Thesis (15 points)Introduction is creative and gets the reader’s attention.The purpose is clearly stated.The thesis declares the author’s stance on a debatable point.The purpose is clear.The thesis declares the author’s stance on a debatable point.Thesis declares the author’s stance on a debatable point but the overall purpose of the essay is not clearThe thesis is not clear or the author needs to take a stance.Does not meet the assignment requirements.
Criteria (15 points)The criteria for comparison are clearly stated.The criteria for comparison are given.The criteria for comparison need to be more specific.The criteria for comparison are unclear.There are no apparent criteria for comparison.
Development (30 points)Argument is well-developed, using specific examples from the essays to illustrate key points.Argument is well-developed, but does not provide detailed examples from the essays to support.The comparison is not clearly developed.Development is uneven; does not follow the pattern established in the introduction.Assertions are made without adequate development or support.
Textual Analysis(20 points)Usage of material from essays is clear and well developed.Presented and developed in essay.Quotations and paraphrases of the text are cited.Clear reference to the text.Quotations and paraphrasing are cited.Usage of material from essays is not always clear or given correctly.Needs more specific textual analysis, using material from essays. Makes assertions without examples.Analysis of essays, using examples is missing.
Conclusion (15 points)Summarizes the points made, restates ideas in the thesis, and mirrors the introduction. Provides a sense of closure.;Restates main idea in the thesis and provides a sense of closure.Provides a sense of closure, but makes no reference to the thesis.Not well developed. Thesis concept and stance not apparent.Conclusion is not apparent. Ends abruptly or Introduces a new topic.
Mechanics (15 points)Essay is almost error free of problems with word choice, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure.Relatively free of errors. Minor problems with one or two elements of grammar.Two or more major errors such as sentence fragments, comma splices, or run-on sentencesToo many errors interfere with the reader's ability to understand the writer.Error rate will keep the reader from respecting the writer and his/her meaning.
Revision (15 points)Provides a detailed description of the process used for revision, including the areas of the essay worked on and sources of feedback used. Revision process reflects substantive changes to the content or focus of the essay.Provides a good description of the revision process, but does not provide much detail about the areas worked on or the sources of feedback used.Provides limited comments on the revision process. Does not reflect thoughtful analysis or response to feedback.Essay does not reflect substantive revisions or response to feedback.No revision statement included.
DEBORAH TANNEN Deborah Tannen is a linguist who is best known for her popular studies of communication between men and women. Born and raised in New York City, Tannen earned a BA from Harpur College (now part of Binghamton University), MAs from Wayne State University and the University of California at Berkeley, and a PhD in linguistics from Berkeley. She is University Professor at Georgetown University, has published many scholarly articles and books, and lectures on linguistics all over the world. But her renown is more than academic: With television talk-show appearances, speeches to businesspeople and senators, and best-selling books, Tannen has become, in the words of one reviewer, “America’s conversational therapist.” The books include You Just Don’t Understand (1990), The Argument Culture (1998), I Only Say This Because I Love You (2001), and You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! (2009), the last about communication between sisters. Tannen sits on the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to building audiences for literature. But What Do You Mean? Why do men and women so often communicate badly, if at all? This question has motivated much of Tannen’s research and writing. Excerpted in Redbook magazine from Tannen’s book Talking from 9 to 5 (1994), the essay reprinted here classifies the conversational areas where men and women have the most difficulty communicating in the workplace. William Lutz’s “The World of Doublespeak,” the essay following Tannen’s, also uses classification to examine communication problems, in the form of misleading verbal substitutions that make “the bad seem good, the negative appear positive.” Conversation is a ritual. We say things that seem obviously the 1 thing to say, without thinking of the literal meaning of our words, any more than we expect the question “How are you?” to call forth a detailed account of aches and pains. Unfortunately, women and men often have different ideas 2 about what’s appropriate, different ways of speaking. Many of the conversational rituals common among women are designed to take the other person’s feelings into account, while many of the conversational rituals common among men are designed to maintain the one-up position, or at least avoid appearing one-down. As a result, when men and women interact — especially at work — it’s often women who are at the disadvantage. Because women are not trying to avoid the one-down position, that is unfortunately where they may end up. Here, the biggest areas 3 of miscommunication.
1. Apologies Women are often told they apologize too much. The reason 4 they’re told to stop doing it is that, to many men, apologizing seems synonymous with putting oneself down. But there are many times when “I’m sorry” isn’t self-deprecating, or even an apology; it’s an automatic way of keeping both speakers on an equal footing. For example, a well-known columnist once interviewed me and gave me her phone number in case I needed to call her back. I misplaced the number and had to go through the newspaper’s main switchboard. When our conversation was winding down and we’d both made ending-type remarks, I added, “Oh, I almost forgot — I lost your direct number, can I get it again?” “Oh, I’m sorry,” she came back instantly, even though she had done nothing wrong and I was the one who’d lost the number. But I understood she wasn’t really apologizing; she was just automatically reassuring me she had no intention of denying me her number. Even when “I’m sorry” is an apology, women often assume it will 5 be the first step in a two-step ritual: I say “I’m sorry” and take half the blame, then you take the other half. At work, it might go something like this: A: When you typed this letter, you missed this phrase I inserted. B: Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll fix it. A: Well, I wrote it so small it was easy to miss. When both parties share blame, it’s a mutual face-saving device. But 6 if one person, usually the woman, utters frequent apologies and the other doesn’t, she ends up looking as if she’s taking the blame for mishaps that aren’t her fault. When she’s only partially to blame, she looks entirely in the wrong. I recently sat in on a meeting at an insurance company where 7 the sole woman, Helen, said “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” repeatedly. At one point she said, “I’m thinking out loud. I apologize.” Yet the meeting was intended to be an informal brainstorming session, and everyone was thinking out loud. The reason Helen’s apologies stood out was that she was the 8 only person in the room making so many. And the reason I was concerned was that Helen felt the annual bonus she had received was unfair. When I interviewed her colleagues, they said that Helen was one of the best and most productive workers — yet she got one of the smallest bonuses. Although the problem might have been outright sexism, I suspect her speech style, which differs from that of her male colleagues, masks her competence. Unfortunately, not apologizing can have its price too. Since 9 so many women use ritual apologies, those who don’t may be seen as hard-edged. What’s important is to be aware of how often you say you’re sorry (and why), and to monitor your speech based on the reaction you get.
2. Criticism A woman who cowrote a report with a male colleague was hurt 10 when she read a rough draft to him and he leapt into a critical response — “Oh, that’s too dry! You have to make it snappier!” She herself would have been more likely to say, “That’s a really good start. Of course, you’ll want to make it a little snappier when you revise.” Whether criticism is given straight or softened is often a 11 matter of convention. In general, women use more softeners. I noticed this difference when talking to an editor about an essay I’d written. While going over changes she wanted to make, she said, “There’s one more thing. I know you may not agree with me. The reason I noticed the problem is that your other points are so lucid and elegant.” She went on hedging for several more sentences until I put her out of her misery: “Do you want to cut that part?” I asked — and of course she did. But I appreciated her tentativeness. In contrast, another editor (a man) I once called summarily rejected my idea for an article by barking, “Call me when you have something new to say.” Those who are used to ways of talking that soften the impact 12 of criticism may find it hard to deal with the right-between-the-eyes style. It has its own logic, however, and neither style is intrinsically better. People who prefer criticism given straight are operating on an assumption that feelings aren’t involved: “Here’s the dope. I know you’re good; you can take it.” 3. Thank-Yous A woman manager I know starts meetings by thanking 13 everyone for coming, even though it’s clearly their job to do so. Her “thank-you” is simply a ritual. A novelist received a fax from an assistant in her publisher’s 14 office; it contained suggested catalog copy for her book. She immediately faxed him her suggested changes and said, “Thanks for running this by me,” even though her contract gave her the right to approve all copy. When she thanked the assistant, she fully expected him to reciprocate: “Thanks for giving me such a quick response.” Instead, he said, “You’re welcome.” Suddenly, rather than an equal exchange of pleasantries, she found herself positioned as the recipient of a favor. This made her feel like responding, “Thanks for nothing!” Many women use “thanks” as an automatic conversation 15 starter and closer; there’s nothing literally to say thank you for. Like many rituals typical of women’s conversation, it depends on the goodwill of the other to restore the balance. When the other speaker doesn’t reciprocate, a woman may feel like someone on a seesaw whose partner abandoned his end. Instead of balancing in the air, she has plopped to the ground, wondering how she got there.
4. Fighting Many men expect the discussion of ideas to be a ritual 16 fight — explored through verbal opposition. They state their ideas in the strongest possible terms, thinking that if there are weaknesses someone will point them out, and by trying to argue against those objections, they will see how well their ideas hold up. Those who expect their own ideas to be challenged will respond 17 to another’s ideas by trying to poke holes and find weak links — as a way of helping. The logic is that when you are challenged you will rise to the occasion: Adrenaline makes your mind sharper; you get ideas and insights you would not have thought of without the spur of battle. But many women take this approach as a personal attack. 18 Worse, they find it impossible to do their best work in such a contentious environment. If you’re not used to ritual fighting, you begin to hear criticism of your ideas as soon as they are formed. Rather than making you think more clearly, it makes you doubt what you know. When you state your ideas, you hedge in order to fend off potential attacks. Ironically, this is more likely to invite attack because it makes you look weak. Although you may never enjoy verbal sparring, some women 19 find it helpful to learn how to do it. An engineer who was the only woman among four men in a small company found that as soon as she learned to argue she was accepted and taken seriously. A doctor attending a hospital staff meeting made a similar discovery. She was becoming more and more angry with a male colleague who’d loudly disagreed with a point she’d made. Her better judgment told her to hold her tongue, to avoid making an enemy of this powerful senior colleague. But finally she couldn’t hold it in any longer, and she rose to her feet and delivered an impassioned attack on his position. She sat down in a panic, certain she had permanently damaged her relationship with him. To her amazement, he came up to her afterward and said, “That was a great rebuttal. I’m really impressed. Let’s go out for a beer after work and hash out our approaches to this problem.” 5. Praise A manager I’ll call Lester had been on his new job six months 20 when he heard that the women reporting to him were deeply dissatisfied. When he talked to them about it, their feelings erupted; two said they were on the verge of quitting because he didn’t appreciate their work, and they didn’t want to wait to be fired. Lester was dumbfounded: He believed they were doing a fine job. Surely, he thought, he had said nothing to give them the impression he didn’t like their work. And indeed he hadn’t. That was the problem. He had said nothing — and the women assumed he was following the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” He thought he was showing confidence in them by leaving them alone. Men and women have different habits in regard to giving 21 praise. For example, Deirdre and her colleague William both gave presentations at a conference. Afterward, Deirdre told William, “That was a great talk!” He thanked her. Then she asked, “What did you think of mine?” and he gave her a lengthy and detailed critique. She found it uncomfortable to listen to his comments. But she assured herself that he meant well, and that his honesty was a signal that she, too, should be honest when he asked for a critique of his performance. As a matter of fact, she had noticed quite a few ways in which he could have improved his presentation. But she never got a chance to tell him because he never asked — and she felt put down. The worst part was that it seemed she had only herself to blame, since she had asked what he thought of her talk. But had she really asked for his critique? The truth is, when she 22 asked for his opinion, she was expecting a compliment, which she felt was more or less required following anyone’s talk. When he responded with criticism, she figured, “Oh, he’s playing ‘Let’s critique each other’ ” — not a game she’d initiated, but one which she was willing to play. Had she realized he was going to criticize her and not ask her to reciprocate, she would never have asked in the first place. It would be easy to assume that Deirdre was insecure, whether 23 she was fishing for a compliment or soliciting a critique. But she was simply talking automatically, performing one of the many conversational rituals that allow us to get through the day. William may have sincerely misunderstood Deirdre’s intention — or may have been unable to pass up a chance to one-up her 6. Complaints “Troubles talk” can be a way to establish rapport with a 24 colleague. You complain about a problem (which shows that you are just folks) and the other person responds with a similar problem (which puts you on equal footing). But while such commiserating is common among women, men are likely to hear it as a request to solve the problem. One woman told me she would frequently initiate what she 25 thought would be pleasant complaint-airing sessions at work. She’d talk about situations that bothered her just to talk about them, maybe to understand them better. But her male office mate would quickly tell her how she could improve the situation. This left her feeling condescended to and frustrated. She was delighted to see this very impasse in a section in my book You Just Don’t Understand, and showed it to him. “Oh,” he said, “I see the problem. How can we solve it?” Then they both laughed, because it had happened again: He short-circuited the detailed discussion she’d hoped for and cut to the chase of finding a solution. Sometimes the consequences of complaining are more 26 serious: A man might take a woman’s lighthearted griping literally, and she can get a reputation as a chronic malcontent. Furthermore, she may be seen as not up to solving the problems that arise on the job. 7. Jokes I heard a man call in to a talk show and say, “I’ve worked for 27 two women and neither one had a sense of humor. You know, when you work with men, there’s a lot of joking and teasing.” The show’s host and the guest (both women) took his comment at face value and assumed the women this man worked for were humorless. The guest said, “Isn’t it sad that women don’t feel comfortable enough with authority to see the humor?” The host said, “Maybe when more women are in authority roles, they’ll be more comfortable with power.” But although the women this man worked for may have taken themselves too seriously, it’s just as likely that they each had a terrific sense of humor, but maybe the humor wasn’t the type he was used to. They may have been like the woman who wrote to me: “When I’m with men, my wit or cleverness seems inappropriate (or lost!) so I don’t bother. When I’m with my women friends, however, there’s no hold on puns or cracks and my humor is fully appreciated.” The types of humor women and men tend to prefer differ. 28Research has shown that the most common form of humor among men is razzing, teasing, and mock-hostile attacks, while among women it’s self-mocking. Women often mistake men’s teasing as genuinely hostile. Men often mistake women’s mock self-deprecation as truly putting themselves down. Women have told me they were taken more seriously 29when they learned to joke the way the guys did. For example, a teacher who went to a national conference with seven other teachers (mostly women) and a group of administrators (mostly men) was annoyed that the administrators always found reasons to leave boring seminars, while the teachers felt they had to stay and take notes. One evening, when the group met at a bar in the hotel, the principal asked her how one such seminar had turned out. She retorted, “As soon as you left, it got much better.” He laughed out loud at her response. The playful insult appealed to the men — but there was a trade-off. The women seemed to back off from her after this. (Perhaps they were put off by her using joking to align herself with the bosses.) There is no “right” way to talk. When problems arise, the 30 culprit may be style differences — and all styles will at times fail with others who don’t share or understand them, just as English won’t do you much good if you try to speak to someone who knows only French. If you want to get your message across, it’s not a question of being “right”; it’s a question of using language that’s shared — or at least understood when given the opportunity.
Journal Writing Tannen’s ANECDOTE about the newspaper columnist (par. 4) illustrates that much of what we say is purely automatic. Do you excuse yourself when you bump into inanimate objects? When someone says, “Have a good trip,” do you answer, “You, too,” even if the other person isn’t going anywhere? Do you find yourself overusing certain words or phrases such as “like” or “you know”? Pay close attention to these kinds of verbal tics in your own and others’ speech. Over the course of a few days, note as many of them as you can in your journal. Questions on Meaning 1. What is Tannen’s PURPOSE in writing this essay? 2. What does Tannen mean when she writes, “Conversation is a ritual” (par. 1)? 3. What does Tannen see as the fundamental difference between men’s and women’s conversational strategies? 4. Why is “You’re welcome” not always an appropriate response to “Thank you”? Questions on Writing Strategy 1. This essay has a large cast of characters: twenty-three to be exact. What function do these characters serve? How does Tannen introduce them to the reader? Does she describe them in sufficient detail? 2. Whom does Tannen see as her primary AUDIENCE? ANALYZE her use of the pronoun you in paragraphs 9 and 19. Whom does she seem to be addressing? Why? 3. Analyze how Tannen develops the category of apologies in paragraphs 4–9. Where does she use EXAMPLE, DEFINITION, and COMPARISON AND CONTRAST? 4. How does Tannen’s characterization of a columnist as “well-known” (par. 4) contribute to the effectiveness of her example? 5. OTHER METHODS For each of her seven areas of miscommunication, Tannen compares and contrasts male and female communication styles and strategies. SUMMARIZE the main source of misunderstanding in each area. Questions on Language 1. What is the EFFECT of “I put her out of her misery” (par. 11)? What does this phrase usually mean? 2. What does Tannen mean by a “right-between-the-eyes style” (par. 12)? What is the FIGURE OF SPEECH involved here? 3. What is the effect of Tannen’s use of figurative verbs, such as “barking” (par. 11) and “erupted” (20)? Find at least one other example of the use of a verb in a nonliteral sense. 4. Look up any of the following words whose meanings you are unsure of: synonymous, self-deprecating (par. 4); lucid, tentativeness (11); intrinsically (12); reciprocate (14); adrenaline, spur (17); contentious, hedge (18); sparring, rebuttal (19); adage (20); soliciting (23); commiserating (24); initiate, condescended, impasse (25); chronic, malcontent (26); razzing (28); retorted (29). Suggestions for Writing 1. FROM JOURNAL TO ESSAY Write an essay classifying the examples from your journal entry (p. 359) into categories of your own devising. You might sort out the examples by context (“phone blunders,” “faulty farewells”), by purpose (“nervous tics,” “space fillers”), or by some other principle of classification. Given your subject matter, you might want to adopt a humorous TONE. 2. How true do you find Tannen’s assessment of miscommunication between the sexes? Consider the conflicts you have experienced yourself or observed — between your parents, among fellow students or coworkers, in fictional portrayals in books and movies. You could also go beyond your personal experiences and observations by researching the opinions of other experts (linguists, psychologists, sociologists, and so on). Write an essay confirming or questioning Tannen’s GENERALIZATIONS, backing up your (and perhaps others’) views with your own examples. 3. CRITICAL WRITING Tannen insists that “neither [communication] style is intrinsically better” (par. 12), that “[t]here is no ‘right’ way to talk” (30). What do you make of this refusal to take sides in the battle of the sexes? Is Tannen always successful? Is absolute neutrality possible, or even desirable, when it comes to such divisive issues? 4. CONNECTIONS Tannen offers some of her own experiences as examples of communication blunders, and she often uses the first-person I or we in explaining her categories. In contrast, the author of the next essay, William Lutz, takes a more distant approach in classifying types of misleading language called doublespeak. Which of these approaches, personal or more distant, do you find more effective, and why? When, in your view, is it appropriate to inject yourself into your writing, and when is it not?
Deborah Tannen on Writing Though “But What Do You Mean?” is written for a general audience, Deborah Tannen is a linguistics scholar who does considerable academic writing. One debate among scholarly writers is whether it is appropriate to incorporate personal experiences and biases into their papers, especially given the goal of objectivity in conducting and reporting research. The October 1996 PMLA (Publications of the Modern Language Association) printed a discussion of the academic uses of the personal, with contributions from more than two dozen scholars. Tannen’s comments, excerpted here, focused on the first-person I. When I write academic prose, I use the first person, and I instruct my students to do the same. The principle that researchers should acknowledge their participation in their work is an outgrowth of a humanistic approach to linguistic analysis. … Understanding discourse is not a passive act of decoding but a creative act of imagining a scene (composed of people engaged in culturally recognizable activities) within which the ideas being talked about have meaning. The listener’s active participation in sense making both results from and creates interpersonal involvement. For researchers to deny their involvement in their interpreting of discourse would be a logical and ethical violation of this framework…. [O]bjectivity in the analysis of interactions is impossible anyway. Whether they took part in the interaction or not, researchers identify with one or another speaker, are put off or charmed by the styles of participants. This one reminds you of a cousin you adore; that one sounds like a neighbor you despise. Researchers are human beings, not atomic particles or chemical elements…. Another danger of claiming objectivity rather than acknowledging and correcting for subjectivity is that scholars who don’t reveal their participation in interactions they analyze risk the appearance of hiding it. “Following is an exchange that occurred between a professor and a student,” I have read in articles in my field. The speakers are identified as “A” and “B.” The reader is not told that the professor, A (of course the professor is A and the student B), is the author. Yet that knowledge is crucial to contextualizing the author’s interpretation. Furthermore, the impersonal designations A and B are another means of constructing a false objectivity. They obscure the fact that human interaction is being analyzed, and they interfere with the reader’s understanding. The letters replace what in the author’s mind are names and voices and personas that are the basis for understanding the discourse. Readers, given only initials, are left to scramble for understanding by imagining people in place of letters. Avoiding self-reference by using the third person also results in the depersonalization of knowledge. Knowledge and understanding do not occur in abstract isolation. They always and only occur among people. … Denying that scholarship is a personal endeavor entails a failure to understand and correct for the inevitable bias that human beings bring to all their enterprises. The Bedford Reader on Writing In arguing for the use of the first-person I in scholarly prose, Tannen is speaking primarily about its use in her own field, linguistics. From your experience with ACADEMIC WRITING, is her argument applicable to other disciplines, such as history, biology, psychology, or government? What have your teachers in other courses advised you about writing in the first person? For our guidelines on choosing an appropriate POINT OF VIEW for your writing and using it consistently, check pages 48, 65–66, and 258.
WILLIAM LUTZ William Lutz was born in 1940 in Racine, Wisconsin. He received a BA from Dominican College, an MA from Marquette University, a PhD from the University of Nevada at Reno, and a JD from Rutgers School of Law. For much of his career, Lutz’s interest in words and composition has made him an active campaigner against misleading and irresponsible language. For fourteen years he edited the Quarterly Review of Doublespeak, and he has written three popular books on such language, the last being Doublespeak Defined: Cut through the Bull**** and Get to the Point! (1999). He has also written for many periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times, the London Times, and USA Today. In 1996 Lutz received the George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language. He is professor emeritus at Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey. The World of Doublespeak In the previous essay, Deborah Tannen examines the ways gender differences in speaking can cause innocent misunderstandings. But what if misunderstandings are the result of speech crafted to obscure meaning? Such intentional fudging, or doublespeak, is the sort of language Lutz specializes in, and here he uses classification to expose its many guises. “The World of Doublespeak” abridges the first chapter in Lutz’s book Doublespeak: From Revenue Enhancement to Terminal Living (1989); the essay’s title is the chapter’s subtitle. There are no potholes in the streets of Tucson, Arizona, 1 just “pavement deficiencies.” The Reagan Administration didn’t propose any new taxes, just “revenue enhancement” through new “user’s fees.” Those aren’t bums on the street, just “non–goal oriented members of society.” There are no more poor people, just “fiscal underachievers.” There was no robbery of an automatic teller machine, just an “unauthorized withdrawal.” The patient didn’t die because of medical malpractice, it was just a “diagnostic misadventure of a high magnitude.” The US Army doesn’t kill the enemy anymore, it just “services the target.” And the doublespeak goes on. Doublespeak is language that pretends to communicate but 2 really doesn’t. It is language that makes the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, the unpleasant appear attractive or at least tolerable. Doublespeak is language that avoids or shifts responsibility, language that is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It is language that conceals or prevents thought; rather than extending thought, doublespeak limits it. Doublespeak is not a matter of subjects and verbs agreeing; it 3 is a matter of words and facts agreeing. Basic to doublespeak is incongruity, the incongruity between what is said or left unsaid, and what really is. It is the incongruity between the word and the referent, between seem and be, between the essential function of language — communication — and what doublespeak does — mislead, distort, deceive, inflate, circumvent, obfuscate.
How to Spot Doublespeak How can you spot doublespeak? Most of the time you will 4 recognize doublespeak when you see or hear it. But, if you have any doubts, you can identify doublespeak just by answering these questions: Who is saying what to whom, under what conditions and circumstances, with what intent, and with what results? Answering these questions will usually help you identify as doublespeak language that appears to be legitimate or that at first glance doesn’t even appear to be doublespeak. First Kind of Doublespeak There are at least four kinds of doublespeak. The first is 5 the euphemism, an inoffensive or positive word or phrase used to avoid a harsh, unpleasant, or distasteful reality. But a euphemism can also be a tactful word or phrase which avoids directly mentioning a painful reality, or it can be an expression used out of concern for the feelings of someone else, or to avoid directly discussing a topic subject to a social or cultural taboo. When you use a euphemism because of your sensitivity 6 for someone’s feelings or out of concern for a recognized social or cultural taboo, it is not doublespeak. For example, you express your condolences that someone has “passed away” because you do not want to say to a grieving person, “I’m sorry your father is dead.” When you use the euphemism “passed away,” no one is misled. Moreover, the euphemism functions here not just to protect the feelings of another person, but to communicate also your concern for that person’s feelings during a period of mourning. When you excuse yourself to go to the “restroom,” or you mention that someone is “sleeping with” or “involved with” someone else, you do not mislead anyone about your meaning, but you do respect the social taboos about discussing bodily functions and sex in direct terms. You also indicate your sensitivity to the feelings of your audience, which is usually considered a mark of courtesy and good manners. However, when a euphemism is used to mislead or deceive, 7 it becomes doublespeak. For example, in 1984 the US State Department announced that it would no longer use the word “killing” in its annual report on the status of human rights in countries around the world. Instead, it would use the phrase “unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life,” which the department claimed was more accurate. Its real purpose for using this phrase was simply to avoid discussing the embarrassing situation of government-sanctioned killings in countries that are supported by the United States and have been certified by the United States as respecting the human rights of their citizens. This use of a euphemism constitutes doublespeak, since it is designed to mislead, to cover up the unpleasant. Its real intent is at variance with its apparent intent. It is language designed to alter our perception of reality. The Pentagon, too, avoids discussing unpleasant realities 8 when it refers to bombs and artillery shells that fall on civilian targets as “incontinent ordnance.” And in 1977 the Pentagon tried to slip fundi Second Kind of Doublespeak A second kind of doublespeak is jargon, the specialized language 9 of a trade, profession, or similar group, such as that used by doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, or car mechanics. Jargon can serve an important and useful function. Within a group, jargon functions as a kind of verbal shorthand that allows members of the group to communicate with each other clearly, efficiently, and quickly. Indeed, it is a mark of membership in the group to be able to use and understand the group’s jargon. But jargon, like the euphemism, can also be doublespeak. It 10 can be — and often is — pretentious, obscure, and esoteric terminology used to give an air of profundity, authority, and prestige to speakers and their subject matter. Jargon as doublespeak often makes the simple appear complex, the ordinary profound, the obvious insightful. In this sense it is used not to express but impress. With such doublespeak, the act of smelling something becomes “organoleptic analysis,” glass becomes “fused silicate,” a crack in a metal support beam becomes a “discontinuity,” conservative economic policies become “distributionally conservative notions.” Lawyers, for example, speak of an “involuntary 11 conversion” of property when discussing the loss or destruction of property through theft, accident, or condemnation. If your house burns down or if your car is stolen, you have suffered an involuntary conversion of your property. When used by lawyers in a legal situation, such jargon is a legitimate use of language, since lawyers can be expected to understand the term. However, when a member of a specialized group uses its 12 jargon to communicate with a person outside the group, and uses it knowing that the nonmember does not understand such language, then there is doublespeak. For example, on May 9, 1978, a National Airlines 727 airplane crashed while attempting to land at the Pensacola, Florida, airport. Three of the fifty-two passengers aboard the airplane were killed. As a result of the crash, National made an after-tax insurance benefit of $1.7 million, or an extra 18¢ a share dividend for its stockholders. Now National Airlines had two problems: It did not want to talk about one of its airplanes crashing, and it had to account for the $1.7 million when it issued its annual report to its stockholders. National solved the problem by inserting a footnote in its annual report which explained that the $1.7 million income was due to “the involuntary conversion of a 727.” National thus acknowledged the crash of its airplane and the subsequent profit it made from the crash, without once mentioning the accident or the deaths. However, because airline officials knew that most stockholders in the company, and indeed most of the general public, were not familiar with legal jargon, the use of such jargon constituted doublespeak. ng for the neutron bomb unnoticed into an appropriations bill by calling it a “radiation enhancement device.”
Third Kind of Doublespeak A third kind of doublespeak is gobbledygook or 13 bureaucratese. Basically, such doublespeak is simply a matter of piling on words, of overwhelming the audience with words, the bigger the words and the longer the sentences the better. Alan Greenspan, then chair of President Nixon’s Council of Economic Advisors, was quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1974 as having testified before a Senate committee that “It is a tricky problem to find the particular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem the acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated risk premiums.” Nor has Mr. Greenspan’s language changed since then. Speaking 14 to the meeting of the Economic Club of New York in 1988, Mr. Greenspan, now Federal Reserve chair, said, “I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.” Mr. Greenspan’s doublespeak doesn’t seem to have held back his career.1 Sometimes gobbledygook may sound impressive, but when the 15 quote is later examined in print it doesn’t even make sense. During the 1988 presidential campaign, vice-presidential candidate Senator Dan Quayle explained the need for a strategic-defense initiative by saying, “Why wouldn’t an enhanced deterrent, a more stable peace, a better prospect to denying the ones who enter conflict in the first place to have a reduction of offensive systems and an introduction to defense capability? I believe this is the route the country will eventually go.” The investigation into the Challenger disaster in 1986 16 revealed the doublespeak of gobbledygook and bureaucratese used by too many involved in the shuttle program. When Jesse Moore, NASA’s associate administrator, was asked if the performance of the shuttle program had improved with each launch or if it had remained the same, he answered, “I think our performance in terms of the liftoff performance and in terms of the orbital performance, we knew more about the envelope we were operating under, and we have been pretty accurately staying in that. And so I would say the performance has not by design drastically improved. I think we have been able to characterize the performance more as a function of our launch experience as opposed to it improving as a function of time.” While this language may appear to be jargon, a close look will reveal that it is really just gobbledygook laced with jargon. But you really have to wonder if Mr. Moore had any idea what he was saying. Fourth Kind of Doublespeak The fourth kind of doublespeak is inflated language that is 17 designed to make the ordinary seem extraordinary; to make everyday things seem impressive; to give an air of importance to people, situations, or things that would not normally be considered important; to make the simple seem complex. Often this kind of doublespeak isn’t hard to spot, and it is usually pretty funny. While car mechanics may be called “automotive internists,” elevator operators members of the “vertical transportation corps,” used cars “pre-owned” or “experienced cars,” and black-and-white television sets described as having “non-multicolor capability,” you really aren’t misled all that much by such language. However, you may have trouble figuring out that, when 18 Chrysler “initiates a career alternative enhancement program,” it is really laying off five thousand workers; or that “negative patient-care outcome” means the patient died; or that “rapid oxidation” means a fire in a nuclear power plant. The doublespeak of inflated language can have serious 19 consequences. In Pentagon doublespeak, “pre-emptive counterattack” means that American forces attacked first; “engaged the enemy on all sides” means American troops were ambushed; “backloading of augmentation personnel” means a retreat by American troops. In the doublespeak of the military, the 1983 invasion of Grenada was conducted not by the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, but by the “Caribbean Peace Keeping Forces.” But then, according to the Pentagon, it wasn’t an invasion, it was a “predawn vertical insertion.” …
The Dangers of Doublespeak Doublespeak is not the product of carelessness or 20 sloppy thinking. Indeed, most doublespeak is the product of clear thinking and is carefully designed and constructed to appear to communicate when in fact it doesn’t. It is language designed not to lead but mislead. It is language designed to distort reality and corrupt thought. … In the world created by doublespeak, if it’s not a tax increase, but rather “revenue enhancement” or “tax base broadening,” how can you complain about higher taxes? If it’s not acid rain, but rather “poorly buffered precipitation,” how can you worry about all those dead trees? If that isn’t the Mafia in Atlantic City, but just “members of a career-offender cartel,” why worry about the influence of organized crime in the city? If Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist wasn’t addicted to the pain-killing drug his doctor prescribed, but instead it was just that the drug had “established an interrelationship with the body, such that if the drug is removed precipitously, there is a reaction,” you needn’t question that his decisions might have been influenced by his drug addiction. If it’s not a Titan II nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile with a warhead 630 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, but instead, according to air force colonel Frank Horton, it’s just a “very large, potentially disruptive reentry system,” why be concerned about the threat of nuclear destruction? Why worry about the neutron bomb escalating the arms race if it’s just a “radiation enhancement weapon”? If it’s not an invasion, but a “rescue mission” or a “predawn vertical insertion,” you won’t need to think about any violations of US or international law. Doublespeak has become so common in everyday living that 21 many people fail to notice it. Even worse, when they do notice doublespeak being used on them, they don’t react, they don’t protest. Do you protest when you are asked to check your packages at the desk “for your convenience,” when it’s not for your convenience at all but for someone else’s? You see advertisements for “genuine imitation leather,” “virgin vinyl,” or “real counterfeit diamonds,” but do you question the language or the supposed quality of the product? Do you question politicians who don’t speak of slums or ghettos but of the “inner city” or “substandard housing” where the “disadvantaged” live and thus avoid talking about the poor who have to live in filthy, poorly heated, ramshackle apartments or houses? Aren’t you amazed that patients don’t die in the hospital anymore, it’s just “negative patient-care outcome”? Doublespeak such as that noted earlier that defines cab 22 drivers as “urban transportation specialists,” elevator operators as members of the “vertical transportation corps,” and automobile mechanics as “automotive internists” can be considered humorous and relatively harmless. However, when a fire in a nuclear reactor building is called “rapid oxidation,” an explosion in a nuclear power plant is called an “energetic disassembly,” the illegal overthrow of a legitimate government is termed “destabilizing a government,” and lies are seen as “inoperative statements,” we are hearing doublespeak that attempts to avoid responsibility and make the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, something unpleasant appear attractive; and which seems to communicate but doesn’t. It is language designed to alter our perception of reality and corrupt our thinking. Such language does not provide us with the tools we need to develop, advance, and preserve our culture and our civilization. Such language breeds suspicion, cynicism, distrust, and, ultimately, hostility. Doublespeak is insidious because it can infect and eventually 23 destroy the function of language, which is communication between people and social groups. This corruption of the function of language can have serious and far-reaching consequences. We live in a country that depends upon an informed electorate to make decisions in selecting candidates for office and deciding issues of public policy. The use of doublespeak can become so pervasive that it becomes the coin of the political realm, with speakers and listeners convinced that they really understand such language. After a while we may really believe that politicians don’t lie but only “misspeak,” that illegal acts are merely “inappropriate actions,” that fraud and criminal conspiracy are just “miscertification.” President Jimmy Carter in April of 1980 could call the aborted raid to free the American hostages in Teheran an “incomplete success” and really believe that he had made a statement that clearly communicated with the American public. So, too, could President Ronald Reagan say in 1985 that “ultimately our security and our hopes for success at the arms reduction talks hinge on the determination that we show here to continue our program to rebuild and refortify our defenses” and really believe that greatly increasing the amount of money spent building new weapons would lead to a reduction in the number of weapons in the world. If we really believe that we understand such language and that such language communicates and promotes clear thought, then the world of 1984,2 with its control of reality through language, is upon us.
Journal Writing Now that you know the name for it, when have you read or heard examples of doublespeak? Over the next few days, jot down examples of doublespeak that you recall or that you read and hear — from politicians or news commentators; in the lease for your dwelling or your car; in advertising and catalogs; from bosses, teachers, or other figures of authority; in overheard conversations. Questions on Meaning 1. What is Lutz’s THESIS? Where does he state it? 2. According to Lutz, four questions can help us identify doublespeak. What are they? How can they help us distinguish between truthful and misleading language? 3. What, according to Lutz, are “the dangers of doublespeak”? 4. What ASSUMPTIONS does the author make about his readers’ educational backgrounds and familiarity with his subject? Questions on Writing Strategy 1. What principle does Lutz use for creating his four kinds of doublespeak — that is, what mainly distinguishes the groups? 2. How does Lutz develop the discussion of euphemism in paragraphs 5–8? 3. Lutz quotes Alan Greenspan twice in paragraphs 13–14. What is surprising about the comment in paragraph 14? Why does Lutz include this second quotation? 4. Lutz uses many quotations that were quite current when he first published this piece in 1989 but that now may seem dated — for instance, references to Presidents Carter and Reagan or to the nuclear arms race. Do these EXAMPLES undermine Lutz’s essay in any way? Is his discussion of doublespeak still valid today? Explain your answers. 5. OTHER METHODS Lutz’s essay is not only a classification but also a DEFINITION of doublespeak and an examination of CAUSE AND EFFECT. Where are these other methods used most prominently? What do they contribute to the essay? Questions on Language 1. How does Lutz’s own language compare with the language he quotes as doublespeak? Do you find his language clear and easy to understand? 2. ANALYZE Lutz’s language in paragraphs 22 and 23. How do the CONNOTATIONS of words such as “corrupt,” “hostility,” “insidious,” and “control” strengthen the author’s message? 3. The following list of possibly unfamiliar words includes only those found in Lutz’s own sentences, not those in the doublespeak he quotes. Be sure you can define variance (par. 2); incongruity, referent (3); taboo (5); esoteric, profundity (10); condemnation (11); ramshackle (21); cynicism (22); insidious (23). Suggestions for Writing 1. FROM JOURNAL TO ESSAY Choose at least one of the examples of doublespeak noted in your journal (p. 369), and write an essay explaining why it qualifies as doublespeak. Which of Lutz’s categories does it fit under? How did you recognize it? Can you understand what it means? 2. Just about all of us have resorted to doublespeak at one time or another — when making an excuse, when trying to wing it on an exam, when trying to impress a potential employer. Write a NARRATIVE about a time you used deliberately unclear language, perhaps language that you yourself didn’t understand. What were the circumstances? Did you consciously decide to use unclear language, or did it just leak out? How did others react to your use of this language? 3. CRITICAL WRITING Can you determine from his essay who Lutz believes is responsible for the proliferation of doublespeak? Whose responsibility is it to curtail the use of doublespeak: just those who use it? the schools? the government? the media? we who hear it? Write an essay that considers these questions, citing specific passages from the essay and incorporating your own ideas. 4. CONNECTIONS While Lutz looks at language “carefully designed and constructed to appear to communicate when in fact it doesn’t,” Deborah Tannen, in the previous essay, takes the position that “conversation is a ritual” — that we don’t often think about what we’re saying and miscommunicate as a result. How do you resolve the apparent contradictions in these two writers’ underlying assumptions about language? Is most of our speech deliberate, or is it automatic? Why do you think so? In an essay that draws on examples and EVIDENCE from each of these two essays as well as from your own experience, explain what you see as the major causes of miscommunication.