Pursuing Wisdom / Writing / August 26, 2011

Exercise Caution In Using Extremes

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NOBODY else writes as well as me!
You have NEVER encountered such GENIUS!
EVERYBODY should read it!
Whether speaking, writing, facebooking, or tweeting it’s not usually a good idea to use superlatives or extremes (best, worst, nobody, everybody, favorite, all-time, always, never, etc.). I didn’t say it’s never a good idea. That would be untrue. Just like most superlatives or extremes (see: the first three sentences of this post).
In description these kinds of words bankrupt your phrases of meaning over time. They are persistent exaggeration. Using them is crying “wolf”; in time people just stop listening. Your descriptions lose credibility and your words become valueless.
In debate they create loopholes by setting up straw men or by simply being untrue. They are sweeping generalizations that are easily debunked and disproven.
In relationships they falsely accuse. No, my wife does not “always” talk to me that way. To say so is to slander her.
There is a certain amount of immaturity and ignorance in the overuse of these kinds of words. It implies a lack of thought and recognition toward the import of words themselves. My 5-year-old refers to each different restaurant she wants to go to or movie she wants to watch as her “favorite”. Teens and college students refer to Taco Bell runs as “epic” and Taco Bell burritos as “the best ever!”  There’s a reason for this: they don’t understand the significance of their words because they don’t (or don’t know how to) think about it. But you and I should.
Use these extreme types of words pointedly and you will be able to use them powerfully. Use them sparingly and people will trust them. Use them to make a point. Don’t allow them to be pointless. 



2 Comments

Jan 17, 2012

I agree with you. It is good to use superlatives but you must know how to limit it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Sep 15, 2012

Thanks.



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