Purposeful Prose began with an examination of older methods by which writing and writing education has been studied. Some of the conclusions drawn fell out of fashion and some are still highly applicable to today's writers.
About a week ago, I came across a copy of An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language by Ali Almossawi, published in 2021. Would this set a different precedence? I still notice that a lot of modern writing blogs and how-to guides for writing had become highly repetitive and absolute.
The language of, "If you don't do X, you're not a real writer" still seeps through today's conversations, and while that's going to be a long-standing problem and mode of belief, it's still possible to be a little more mindful of how we use our language and how we look at the language of others.
Almossawi decides to tackle this subject from the point of view of the beautifully illustrated Mr. Rabbit. The conversational tone and humor of The Sense of Style was something that helped me to better understand how Pinker was defining different concepts of style and the comics and cartoons were less of a comedic relief than they were substance to Pinker's point. Everything had a clearly defined use.
At this point, it seems that the use of the character will make the experience of this book very personable. As someone who enjoys the conversational approach of the writing process, the character becomes the figure that we converse with or a vehicle by which we can converse with ourselves.
The immediate introduction is a highly useful preview of subjects that, I think, most likely can carry on throughout the book. Something that I definitely appreciate is the near immediate introduction to unconscious bias and tools that help people to shape different types of biases such as priming and framing.
When someone is primed, information is introduced to them that influences them or "primes" them to receive the information that follows in a certain way.
While both concepts are equally complex, framing is best known for its complexity. Basically, the way that information is put together can influence the judgements that we make regarding that information.
I'm not sure if this is an intentional implication, but from what I understand, this isn't solely meant to help us acknowledge our own biases or examine the means by which those biases are formed. Rather, since this is placed in the introduction, that tells me that as much as my own judgement may be flawed, I should still use it to analyze the information that will be given to me throughout the book regardless of how it's packaged.
I'm being given the image of Mr. Rabbit, and while he is who I am in conversation with, it is just that. A conversation. I don't have to take every word that is said throughout the book as gospel, but the exchange is still beneficial.
Loaded language is defined as any form of language used to influence others. The influence can be done knowingly or unknowingly, but the difference that it makes depends on how it is received. A problem that Almossawi addresses is how we usually focus on whether we like the person who is delivering a message rather than whether the message makes sense.
While it's more difficult, we sometimes have to learn from people who we do not like. I note, and Almossawi makes this distinction as well, that there is a difference between learning something from someone we do not like and taking in information from someone who doesn't have the best of intentions.
"I don't discuss language that's obviously bigoted or insincere (which I trust my discerning readers will recognize on their own)! I also leave the important topic of how someone's culture informs their interpretation of language--since, after all, English speakers come from a wealth and breadth of cultures--to the relevant experts" (Almossawi, 2021).
First and foremost, the use of "don't" and that's" reinforces the conversational tone that this book is meant to take. Trust is established in the readers to create their own takeaways and no claims will be made towards someone identity, culture, overall way of being. For a current publication like this, that is a crucial disclaimer.
Overall, looking solely at the introduction, the way it's structured, and the way this book establishes itself, I'm optimistic about what follows. I hope to learn a great deal about loaded language, and I'm excited for how the character conversation will play out. Unconscious bias is also a very timely topic and everyone is receptive to those biases and influence. Being more self-aware about the type of language we interact with can help us to better process and react to it.
So, it is my hope that this book can contribute to self-awareness in a meaningful way. I'm sure that it will, but I won't make any promises until I've read further.
Thank you to everyone who has given me feedback on Purposeful Prose thus far!
For anyone who wants to more closely follow this series on An Illustrated book of Loaded Language, I highly recommend buying a copy. Like The Sense of Style, no review will be able to fully capture the specific writing style, humor, and especially the artwork. Here is a link to a listing for this book on Bookshop.org, where everything bought supports local independent bookstores.
If you would like to see more from Purposeful Prose, you can join me on LinkedIn where there will be extra content or become a member. Membership doesn't cost anything and allows you to engage directly with my posts and my forum.
As always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Almossawi, A., & Giraldo, A. (2021). An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language: Learn to Hear What’s Left Unsaid (Bad Arguments). The Experiment.