If you’ve ever thought about how fast our language – and therefore our culture – is changing, you only need a handful of random examples to prove the point. Writers, especially, must be keenly sensitive to these changes to remain relevant, or risk being dismissed outright.
creating mental pictures
The marketers of processed food and beverages, as well as alcohol and tobacco, have understood the framing challenge very well. Minimizing the health threats of their products, they reframed the issue as a defense of the public’s “right” to smoke and drink…and to feed junk food to their kids. “Don’t tell me what I can’t do,” is the common refrain. It’s a matter of choice, freedom and responsibility.
According to common wisdom in neuroscience, about 98 percent of our thoughts are unconscious and automatic, carried out by the neural system. We believe we think freely, but we actually don’t very much.
The British politician and aristocrat John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, liked to play cards. But he also enjoyed eating a snack at the same time, and that tied up his hands and involved utensils. So, in 1748, he came up with a solution: he put beef between slices of toast, so he could eat with one hand and still play the game.
It’s been 55 years since Rosa Parks decided to keep her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. A tired seamstress who was on her way home from work, she did more to demonstrate the indignities of racism in the Jim Crow south than just about anyone else.
As a writer, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that it was in my best interest to assume that most people don’t read very much or listen very well. Short attention spans, busy lives and almost constant distractions create enormous challenges for communicators. It’s an undeniable fact that audiences bore easily.