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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Importance of Tone in Communication

Effective Speech Communicates the Meanings Intended by the Speaker.
(Basic Principles of Speech 4th Edition (Sarett/Sarett/Foster))

Effective Essays Communicate the Meanings Intended by the Writer.
(Initial principle modified to apply to the writing of brief essays) 

Essays written with the passion and discipline of poetry can easily contain meanings beyond the ken of the writer but well within the scope of the reader’s experience.  In other words, the response of the writer is beyond the control of the writer and even more so of the response of the reader.  If I write “He trekked through the swamp” the visual of that swamp is crafted by the experiences of the writer which can be quite different from the visuals elicited on the part of the reader. And what this visual assumes in symbolic meanings is even more densely complex and reflexive.   So we find in this sense the above principle at the outset is impossible to fully realize.

Much more controllable than meaning is tone.  That is, a piece of music can be widely associated with melancholy or joy.  Tone is more universal and communicable than multifarious idiosyncratic visuals and their symbolic meanings.  Thus, in my essays I apply great discipline to crafting tone and, more importantly, not to disrupt a regnant tone with discordant notes.  It is a reliable truth that if the integrity of tone is maintained, then communication will be effectively “on the same page” for writer and reader and communication of meanings concordant if not precisely mirrored. Communication is by definition a community project and to misconstrue tone is to misconstrue everything else.  The wide misinterpretation of Shakespeare's plays stands as egregious evidence of this simple truth.

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