Simple or simplistic?

Think twice before you choose simplistic over simple to describe something that you wish to promote or praise! These words share the same root and are confused more often than you’d think. Whether describing someone’s work, a product or a style, keep in mind that simple has a positive connotation. It often means easy to understand or use: Our smart phones are sophisticated but simple. It can also mean pure or unadulterated: We believe in simple, elegant design. Simplistic, on the other hand, carries negative connotations such as overly simplified, dumbed-down or naiive: Her simplistic account of his life totally missed his complex motivations.

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Albert Einstein

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

 

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Herakleitos and the culture of change

“One cannot step twice into the same river, for the water into which you first stepped has flowed on.” Fragment 21, Herakleitos 540 – 480 BC

Like all experience, language too is constantly changing; it’s a work in progress. Think of slang, poetry, rap, advertising, literature, technology. These are the frontiers of communication. They’re where we explore and extend conventional meaning and usage to create “the new.” Some of our innovations stick; others are short-lived. But one thing’s certain: the river of language flows on, changing as we change, altering how we think and communicate along the way.

 

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Confusing Apostrophes

A friend recently wrote, “I see so many apostrophe usages I’m not sure if it goes before or after the s!” She’s not alone. Here’s an easy solution. To show possession, simply add ’s to the word in question. Like this: Jason’s friend. The men’s team. It only gets confusing when the word already ends in s. Then you have the option of dropping the second s. Like this: Chris’s work or Chris’ work.  The girls’s team or the girls’ team. The good news? Both are correct; it’s a style call.

 

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Jeanette Winterson

“Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.”

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Silence is golden

Use silence when you speak. In a presentation or conversation, you’ll appear more confident if you don’t rush in to fill up every second with words and more words. Deliberate long pauses function like white space in a document. I think of them as the background that makes ideas pop, giving us time to process and ponder what has been said.

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Its or it’s, you’re or your?

Not an issue in a text or tweet, but confusing these words can work against you in a more formal document. These common spelling mistakes are simple to avoid. When unsure, just read the sentence in question by substituting “it is” or “you are.” If it makes sense, then use the contraction (it’s, you’re). If it doesn’t make sense, then use the possessive (its, your).

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Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

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Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

“There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”

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Words are powerful

Do you ever think about how language works? I see words as thought-capsules that convey our ideas, desires, ambitions, dreams, goals, emotions — our humanity. We use words to persuade, propose, inform, explain, explore ideas, ask, express, celebrate, comfort, understand, to tell stories or just ask for a cup of coffee! Powerful.

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