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The devil in the detail

Why Words Matter Newsletter May 2021


As in many other things, the devil is in the detail when it comes to communication. Communicating sounds easy enough, but in practice, hitting the right tone, nailing our message and finding the right words is often more difficult than we think. It’s details that build and shape the bigger picture. It’s details that tell the story.

But we often forget about the complexity of the communication process. As Adrián puts it here, “What we think we say and what we actually say are different. So is what we actually say and what the other person makes of it.”

Communication is complex; it’s not just about what we say or write, but how. It’s about the tiny details, signals and cues we use to convey our message - the exclamation that shows our enthusiasm, the elongated umm of uncertainty, the pause for dramatic effect, the emphasis for irony, the giggle that gives away nerves, the wink that lets people in on the joke, the full stop that says ‘we’re done’.

“But in speaking our minds,” Adrian says, “perhaps we emphasise the wrong thing, or forget important details that give background or context, fundamentally shaping and warping what we say.”

Here are some links to get us thinking about the details of how we communicate.

Aeon (Video)

We all fill pauses with umms, ahhs and likes when we speak. But is the use of these linguistic fillers simply a habit we can't break or is there more than meets the ear?

Ryan Biggie

A fascinating read that looks at the history of “creating delightful user experiences”, and asks whether the pandemic has put an end to the oh-so-charming microcopy, email subject lines, error messages and pop-ups that litter our digital experiences.

Ryan Tan

Following the tenth Global Accessibility Awareness Day on 20 May, here’s the low-down on emojis and accessibility with practical examples of how to use (and not use) them in your communications.

The Conversation

A fun article that looks at the history of five everyday words and their original meaning. Take a look - they may surprise you.

Brain Pickings

Social media has changed the way we communicate, from the rise of the lowercase girl to the killing of punctuation. But back in 1956, the German philosopher and media critic, Adorno already argued the case for the seriousness of punctuation.

That’s all for now! Did you find anything interesting you’d like to share or chat about? Just reply to this email and let us know!

Stay safe,

Nia and Adrián

Tidy Content


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