Archives: Editorials

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Cross-post: How the passive voice kills your message

Originally published on January 30, 2014 in Sightline Daily.

by Anna Fahey

As I listened to President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, I admit I was encouraged and moved at times. But I couldn’t help giving each sentence Anat Shenker-Osorio’s passive-voice test.

Shenker-Osorio is author of “Don’t Buy It: The Trouble with Talking Nonsense About the Economy.” She’s a language researcher and consultant and one of my favorite messaging gurus.

As she wrote in the Boston Globe a while back, when Obama—or anybody—uses the passive, they invariably fail to say who is to blame or why the challenges and problems and outrages they’re describing exist in the first place. This failure, in turn, leaves us with no good clues about viable solutions. If we don’t know how we got here, it’s hard to figure out how we get where we want to go.

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Life is good in 2050

Originally published in the November issue of The Solutions Journal.

by Jay Beeks

The year 2050 is a good time to look back on the major events in the United States since the turn of the century. There have been great hardships, but we have prevailed and achieved so much. Without question, our greatest challenges have been the unparalleled loss of life and the tremendous destruction caused by global climate change. Fortunately, what at times seemed like the inevitable obliteration of society has subsided to ongoing difficulties interspersed with moments of achievement. Given what could have been had we decided not to act, we have reason to celebrate.

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Distractions from fear

by Kathy Hubbell

The news has become overwhelming in recent months. From the mass shootings in our public places to the first notice of a gun created entirely by a 3-D printer; from the tragic plane crash in San Francisco to the horrific loss of 19 Hotshot firefighters in Arizona – all around us, voices tell us to be afraid. And they’re telling us we should not merely be afraid; we should be terrified – the world around us holds terrors from the minute we wake up in the morning. I’ve said for many years that the most frequent headline in the media is some version of, “Could THIS happen to YOU?” 

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Student reflection: Advice in 500 words or less

by Simon Tam What if you only had 500 words of wisdom to share with your community, your children, or tomorrow’s leaders? This is what I’d tell them: Make every word count. I once heard that “language is the primary moral choice in our life”. The words we choose can build communities, reunite loved ones, […]

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A journey in home energy efficiency

by Zach Henkin

I have had a fascination for efficiency ever since my parents first installed a large globe-style fluorescent lamp to replace an incandescent overhead bulb in my childhood bedroom. This fascination for energy has steadily progressed and, as luck would have it, so has technology.

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Death of the Telephone

by Simon Tam

Last week, someone accused my work with social media marketing “irrelevant.” They claimed that organizations did not need an online marketing specialist — that it was a waste of resources. It reminded me of something I saw on television.

During the first season of Downton Abbey, there was an amusing bit when the family decided to install a telephone. It being 1914, no one knew how to use one. Several members of the household even questioned whether it was necessary at all.

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Tradition, multimodal composition & Oscar Wilde

In March 2013, John Caruso posted a two-part series on digital democracy. Those posts prompted a lively conversation here at the Marylhurst blog about digital citizenship, digital writing, multimedia, co-learning and participatory culture. In response to this ongoing dialogue, Tiffany Timperman offers her perspective on composition and multimodality.

by Tiffany Timperman

“The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.” – Oscar Wilde, “The Preface,” The Picture of Dorian Gray

I want to consider the ways that multimodality can enrich composition: process and product. Traditional composition focuses on alphabetic text styled according to a rhetorical mode of writing (narrative, descriptive, argumentative, expository), purpose (to convince, persuade, entertain, inform), audience, and disciplinary guideline (MLA, APA, Chicago Style). Multimodal composition incorporates, as the term suggests, multiple modes to create a whole, and in the sense that we now have new and emerging technologies and materials, composition has increased potential and design elements to draw from.

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Irish as an endangered language

by Bob Burke

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) estimates that of the 6,000+ languages spoken today half will disappear by the end of the century if nothing is done. The Irish Language is “definitely endangered,” according to UNESCO. Will this language—spoken for several thousand years, first written around the time of St. Patrick (450 AD), and one of the oldest continuously-spoken vernaculars in Western Europe—be one of the languages to disappear? Or will it survive?

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The new politics of the English language: Part II

by Barry Bennett

In an earlier post I updated George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language for the 21st century, describing how, by creating a false picture of the political process, the word filibuster masks the undemocratic nature of our political system. In this post I describe how use of other words and phrases creates similarly false images that obscure an equally nefarious phenomenon: the destruction of the social contract and the continuing transfer of the country’s wealth to a small elite.

The longest-serving and least noticed example of this deceptive language is defined-contribution pension. A brief history of pensions will illustrate how this term misleads.

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The new politics of the English language: Part I

by Barry Bennett

The crucial tool of politics—and many other human endeavors—is language. Language is how we relate to each other, how we teach and how we learn. Language informs, it instructs, it describes. And it manipulates.

In his famous essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell condemned the increasing abuse of English, directing particular venom at the “swindles and perversions” that governments use to obfuscate and mislead in the most serious of situations: bombarding defenseless villages in wartime and driving out the inhabitants is pacification; imprisoning people for years without trial or sending them to die in Arctic labor camps is elimination of unreliable elements.

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