On the importance of diction

Mathematicians are spoiled. They’re spoiled because the truth of their statements is all that matters. There are verbose or terse ways of stating the same facts, but in the end, no one really cares as long as the statements themselves are true. No matter how much you despise the particular mathematician, his true statements remain true.

The more ambiguous the notion of truth is in a field, the more room there is for other things to matter. In those more subjective fields, it is a fact that tone matters. Perhaps more than content. If the goal is to ever convince anyone who is either ignorant or unconvinced, diction, tone, and the overall ability to be taken seriously all matter.

If you’ve ever read The Little Prince, you may recall the anecdote about the Turkish astronomer who wasn’t taken seriously until he put on a suit.

It’s the same with race issues. If it’s easy to dismiss someone as rabid, angry, unreasonable then their content doesn’t even matter! Even word choice is important. Using popular race studies buzzwords like oppression, marginalization, privilege, intersectionality, derailment, safe space, institutionalized racism, bigotry, entitlement makes it easy for the reader to write someone off as simply frothing. A couple of examples. Hyperbole doesn’t help either. Just the way that after you’ve heard the VP of engineering say he’s “SUPER EXCITED” about something for the 20th time in the last 10 minutes, it becomes meaningless.

I’m not saying I know better. In all of my writings on atheism, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of the same slogan-slinging. But it becomes more evident that there is something I can learn from just about anyone. Social justice warriors included. That is this: if you want to convince someone who isn’t on your side, you have to speak their language. Otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir.

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