“Totally.” A lesson in emphasis.
14 November 2011
Teaching moment! Why we avoid unnecessary emphasis. (Remember the Seinfeld episode about the overuse of exclamation points?)
- Is there a human being alive who doesn’t hear the word totally without adding a Valley Girl voice, thereby undermining all its legitimacy as an emphasis? If only she’d added like — as in, “he, like, totally respects women!”
- When you’re making an assertion like “he respects women,” there is no emphatic term that can make it more believable. Let’s run through some options: “he really really respects women”; “he absolutely respects women”; “there is no one who respects women more than he;” or for that matter “he respects women!!!!!!!!!!!!” What you need is evidence, not assertions with emphasis.
- I personally would feel much better about this statement if I’d grown accustomed to hearing Herman Cain use the word “women” instead of “girls” and “ladies.” And if he hadn’t used that expression about “letting Herman be Herman.”
So whether writing papers or giving press announcements, please: avoid unnecessary emphasis! Back up a statement with evidence rather than empty words.
And (ahem) the word totally totally does not achieve what you think it achieves.