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The Role of Language in Thought & Persuasion

Instructor: Monica Sedore

Monica holds a master's degree and teaches 11th grade English. Previously, she has taught first-year writing at the collegiate level and worked extensively in writing centers.

Depending on the way a sentence is constructed, words and phrases can take on many meanings. In this way, language plays a big role both in our lives. It may be used to inform others about an idea or persuade them to agree with us about a topic. Read on to find out more about how we use language in thought and persuasion!

The Meaning Behind a Sentence

Language is more than just a way we communicate with each other; we also can use language to inform and persuade. For starters, we'll take a look at using language to inform. Depending upon our diction (also known as word choice) and tone (the emotional emphasis we put behind words), one sentence can have multiple meanings. For example, when you ask your friend Sally how she is doing and she replies, 'I'm fine,' she actually could mean she is not doing well at all. Punctuation also plays a major role in understanding one's tone. If Sally says, 'I'm fine' as she's smiling, she probably means what she's saying. However, if she pauses and says, 'I'm . . . fine,' she probably is indicating she is not doing well and stopped to think about what word she would use to describe her well-being.

Writing to Learn

You can use written language to better understand your own thoughts through journaling. This one-on-one conversation with yourself may take many forms such as brainstorming, where the writer jots down everything he or she knows about the topic in a list or bullet form; prewriting, which is a type of warm-up exercise that is slightly more organized than brainstorming and usually includes complete sentences; or mind-mapping, which is constructing a visual 'map' of the topic and any relevant subtopics.

In a mind map, the central topic goes in the middle, and the subtopics branch off of it accordingly.
an example of a mind map

No matter what you call this writing project, sitting down to write with the intention of simply exploring your thoughts can be both therapeutic and productive. Whether you're trying to work through a difficult situation, find a way to tell your boss that you are resigning from your position, or put together ideas for a piece of writing you're responsible to complete, stream-of-consciousness writing is a great way to break down mental barriers and find answers.

Information Station

Perhaps the most common form of communication is the act of informing others about a topic or an idea. You may tell a friend about your plans for the weekend or give someone directions to the library. But whatever your reason for sharing information--whether it's oral or written--the ideas must have some sort of organization. Otherwise the persons receiving the information will have a difficult time understanding what they are being told or what they are reading. Imagine reading a recipe for a cake with the steps presented in a random order. You cannot possibly bake a cake by adding the eggs after you have put the cake into the oven. Similarly, if you're telling someone about your weekend plans or giving him directions, the steps or the story need to have a logical order that he easily can follow; otherwise, you risk losing your audience.

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