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Saying it how it is or how we like? the importance of clarity

Words can evoke an emotional response and this can drive our feelings, behaviours and choices. To test this, read the following:

• It’s amazing; we’re the best; the greatest; the most amazing; beautiful; incredible; better than ever before.

• It’s terrible; they’re the worst; disgusting; worse than ever before; dangerous; evil

How do you feel?

These words have impact but do they tell us anything about the world? The answer is not so much about the world but certainly about how someone feels about something within the world, and perhaps how you should feel, too, depending on agreeability.

Let’s bring some context to the discussion:

• Left wing beliefs are evil and dangerous.

• Right wing beliefs are evil and dangerous

Have you seen these statements before?

How did you react?

  1. agree with one or the other;
  2. ‘ah no, not this again!’

Now ask yourself, what do the statements tell us about the world? Do they tell us what right wing or left wing is? Do they tell us what the beliefs are? Do they show an assessment for the conclusions or evil and dangerous? No, then what value do they have?

Emotional. Designed to evoke a response based on bias. They tell us nothing about the world. So, when people say: ‘they say it like it is’ what they really mean is ‘they say it how I like’.

If you want to learn something about the world, then language and content has to reflect the questions that allow us to process beyond the emotional and into the specific.

This is why in academic writing, emotive adjectives are avoided and details govern content. For more tips on academic writing and to check whether your style and referencing are accurate visit:

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