Tone of Voice Matters

I am writing this to get it off my chest. I am going to try and be very general and not name people/places so that this doesn’t come back to haunt me…

So this morning I’m commenting on Candice’s post about using words as weapons, and one of the things I said is that your tone of voice has a lot do with how words can hurt. As I’m writing this I called a doctor’s office to have them send something to my dad. The lady said that she couldn’t because of patient confidentiality. This irritated me because another office did it without any problem, but that’s beside the point. It was the way she said it to me. When she answered the phone she sounded uninterested and annoyed that she had to talk to someone on the phone. As I was talking to her she kept the same persona and did not try to help me.

There was more that I needed to say and ask her about, but I was so mad at the way she was talking to me that I hung up. She didn’t say any hurtful words, but it was all about the tone of her voice. Because of her tone, it made me feel stupid and like I was wasting her time. She should have sounded upbeat when answering the phone, she should have been compassionate when telling me no, and she should have been more pleasant during the whole conversation. When talking to patients/customers/clients you should always have a pleasant tone. Even if you have to fake it, I would NEVER intentionally use a negative tone with my customers. Good customer service is so hard to find nowadays…

Conquer English to Make China Strong: The Globalization of English

I didn’t read this entire article in Ch. 9 of language. After reading the first paragraph I feel like I have everything I need to know. There is this major spread of the English language that has been happening all over the world. English has become a second language in many countries. According to Henry Hitchings this is because of shipping, diplomacy, computing, medicine and education. Also because English is the language of business and popular culture.

The US is what it is because of immigrants. We have very diverse cultures all over the US that no other country has. Why is it that English is the most widespread language versus Chinese? If you look at the tag of almost every item you can purchase in a store, it says that it was made in China. China makes most of our imports yet Chinese isn’t a second language for us. I feel like it’s almost as if America wants it this way. We want to be the dominant culture. Anyone who knows how to use language has power. If the whole world can speak our language than we have power and control.

I know this might be a little extreme, but that’s what was going through my head. I would love to hear your opinion.

When the Media is the Disaster

Chapter 8 in Language talks about how words can hurt people. The first article discusses the news reporting that was done on the major earthquake in Haiti that happened a couple years ago. The media was describing some of the victims as “looters” because they were “stealing” food. Rebecca Solnit disagrees with this term, and argues that it is a bad description of these people.

Words cannot physically hurt but they resonate with us. I’ve always heard the saying to “choose your words carefully” and that’s because words are so easy to manipulate upon others. We have the capability of making emotions by using words in different contexts. We can make each other happy, sad, and mad all by choosing the right words at the right time.

At the end of the article Solnit ends with the opinion that “we live and die by words and ideas, and it matters desperately that we get them right.” By choosing the right words, the media could have saved lives by getting compassion from people to donate instead of accusing the victims of “stealing” when they are simply trying to survive. The media knows how to manipulate people with words which is almost always the case. They realize that they have power and know how to use words to get a desired response.

It matters that we get words right because we are dealing with actual people. Words can change people and what they think. What do you think about what Solnit meant by her quote?


As I am reading “The Concept of Discourse Communities” by John Swale, all I can think about is “what is this guy talking about?” His writing is very formal, and some of the words I have never heard of. Many times I had to re-read a sentence and look up words. I realize though that he is probably writing to other scholars who are also addressing this topic. His audience may have the same level of education as he does, and are also literary researchers. Obviously his readers know what he is talking about because I do not understand what he is trying to say in the way that he is writing it.

I do know that he is a professor of linguistics at the University of Michigan and received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University. His career has been focused on working with nonnative English speakers on strategies to help them succeed as readers and writers for the university. This clears up his purpose for writing this book. The reason I am reading this is not only because it was required, but because it will help me to be more aware and critically engaged when conversing with different groups. Swales is trying to teach us how to identify these “discourse communities” and respond appropriately. In other words, it matters so that you can affectively communicate with the people of certain groups.

I also started to read the article by Carolyn Miller and I felt the same as I did with John Swale. Our class discussion helped me understand what these professionals are trying to say. There are all these different rhetorical situations that we can categorize into genres and analyze them. When I am at work, I have to be professional. I have to dress a certain way, I have to be outgoing, and I can’t be lazy. In a different setting these characteristics will change according to the situation. If I was to act like I do at home at the work place, I would get fired, or have a serious intervention. For people who cannot recognize these differences in social settings, they will have a harder time receiving the response they are looking for.

The Future of the English Language

This is what typical conversations look like

This is what typical conversations look like

Chapter 4 of Language made me realize just how much we misuse the English language everyday. I consider myself to be a decent writer, and pride myself with the fact that I try to use proper grammar. I didn’t realize that I actually make frequent grammatical errors in my writing, and when I am having a face-to-face conversation. Basically, as we continue to misuse simple writing mechanics, eventually it sounds correct to the point that we are shifting from what’s proper grammar to what’s acceptable grammar. The book gives several examples of common errors. One of the examples that stood out to me the most, “I wish I was” or “if I was” instead up finishing with “were.” I honestly didn’t realize this was incorrect until I read this book. It’s one of the examples we would consider acceptable grammar since it is often used that way, and most people don’t know it’s incorrect.

Technology has dramatically changed the way speak to each other. Everyday we communicate through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, or we text and email. There isn’t as much in person conversation like there was before technology advanced so much. We have also come up with new slang words that even the dictionary is adding like “LOL” and “OMG.” Language explains that “if tens of millions of people are using a word over a period of years, lexicographers put it into the dictionary”. We will continue to communicate through technology, and language will keep changing.

An Everyday Argument

According to the book an argument should have a catalyst, thesis or claim, support, linkage, and implications. My argument is between me and my sister. Every night we take turns washing the dishes. Last night was her turn, so tonight is my turn, but I have a lot of homework and don’t have enough time to wash the dishes, so I want her to take my turn. The catalyst for the argument is that I don’t want to wash the dishes even though its my turn. My claim is that I don’t have enough time to wash the dishes because I have too much homework. I support this argument by listing what homework I have and on average how long it takes me to finish it. The linkage is that I wont be able to get my homework done by the time I normally go to bed. The implication is that I will be tired in the morning if I have to stay up later than usual to finish my homework.

Topic: Arguments

The book “So What?” gives a scenario about an employee asking his boss for a raise. The employee states his claim and gives reasons for why he should get this raise. He continues to give reasons and shows evidence that he deserves this raise. The book goes on to say that the employee’s argument would have been stronger if he would have given reasons and evidence in the beginning of his argument. The book also says an everyday argument might work when both the person arguing and the audience share a lot of background knowledge.

I thought that the last statement was interesting. The author’s were trying to say that if a person arguing and the audience share background knowledge, then there is more common ground for the argument meaning less room for assumption. This is just how I interpreted it, I might be way off. I think that this is true to an extent. I know that most people argue with the people closest to us (who share the most background knowledge). I argue with my parents and siblings all the time. For example, I might assume that my younger sister is faking that she is in pain just so she doesn’t have to help clean up, which will lead to an argument. Because I know her so well, I know that she doesn’t like cleaning up her messes and will try to get out of it, so I assume that she is faking that she is in pain. It is easier to argue with the people you are closest to because you share background knowledge.

Hopefully what I wrote made some sense…

My Experience with Language

I was held back a year in the 6th grade because my reading and writing skills were poor. I hated reading, and every time I started a book I would get bored and not finish it. I did enjoy writing to tell stories, but I misspelled almost everything.  I had to go to tutoring for a year to catch up, which I finally did. To encourage me to read, my mom would buy me magazines because they were visually stimulating. Eventually, I moved onto chapter books and finished the entire Harry Potter series. After that I was hooked to reading. Today I am an avid reader, mostly consisting of fiction romance novels. My relationship with language is a love-hate relationship.

At first I struggled a lot, and was terrified of writing papers; I still don’t like writing papers. However, I don’t have as much difficulty with language, and I embrace it by reading often. I enjoy when an author uses descriptive language to paint a picture that I interpret as my own. Good authors know how to connect the characters to the reader so that you feel as though you’ve known this person for years. The best authors can use language to their advantage to get you hooked to the story, to the point where you can’t put the book down because it is that good. Language excites me when authors use it creatively and memorably so that it sticks out from the rest.