What is ‘Recordation’?

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Estimated average reading time = 3 minutes

Today, I was working on a technical document when I had to stop mid-scroll and double-check what was on the screen.  My eyes saw it.  My brain registered it.  My mind searched for it.  But no, it did not compute.

There on the page, was a word.

Certainly, not one I have come across in business documents before. It was — ‘recordation’!

What was so foreign about it?

For one thing, it was not plain English.  All good business documents use plain English. I read a wide variety of literature and I haven’t come across that word in modern texts.

At first, I questioned if the word existed.   Then, I questioned if my vocabulary had been deprived somehow?

I had to find out.

According to several online sources, yes, re-cor-da-tion does exist (four syllables).

Merriam-Webster Online defines it as a noun that describes, “the act or process of recording” (circa 1812).

In fact the word has origins in old French, Latin and Middle English.  For example, the old French (late 14th century), word, ‘recordacion’ referred to the ‘faculty of remembering’.

So, what does that say already?

Well, for one thing recordation was around long before information technology.

But in fact, recordation is used today in law.  It describes, ‘the act of giving legal status to a document by making it an official public record’.

The context for ‘recordation’ in the document I reviewed was one thing that did not compute. The other was the audience.

Who was going to read this document? Certainly not a group of lawyers.

Instead, the word ‘record’, ‘recording’ or ‘recorded’ could easily replace it (depending on how the sentenced is reworded).

The most challenging task ahead is to convince the author of the value of plain English to engage a document’s readers and not use ‘pompous’ or ‘outdated’ language that will lose them.

Have you come across any out-of-context words used inyour business documents not stated as ‘plain English’ ?  What are they?

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Word Power

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English novelist, playwright and politician, Edward George Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873) wrote ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ in 1839, which essentially means that powerfully-communicated words have just as much, if not more strength than violence with weapons.

The pen is mightier than the sword.

Recently, a friend posted an extract from Grammarly—a website with the claim it is the ‘World’s Best Grammar Checker’ (according to more than 4 million Facebook likes; 41,500 Twitter followers and 1.8 million Google recommendations)—on how to come up with some unique insult using three columns of Shakespearean words.  No surprise, the piece was captioned ‘Shakespearean Insults’.

shakespearean insults listTaking Lytton’s view that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ and combining this with Grammarly’s ‘Shakepearean Insults’, I wondered if these words could, indeed, be welded as weapons.

Using Grammarly’s Shakepearean three-column list, take a word from each column and put them together to come up with the overall insult.  Indeed this list highlights some of the many words lost from English vocabulary today, although it also draws attention to some really interesting English words one can use from a by-gone era, don’t you think?

Let’s do a ‘Shakespearean Insult’ together.

Look down the list in column 1 – there, “roguish” is a good descriptive word.
Now, go to column 2 and find another. What about “rough-hewn”?

And finally, let’s look at column 3 for the last word. Want to try “moldwarp”?

Put them altogether. And the insult is, “roguish, rough-hewn moldwarp”.

But can you image saying things like, “that roguish, rough-hewn, moldwarp has increased the rates again … ”?

Or, what about, “that paunchy, onion-eyed,  lewster is …” (you finish the sentence)? Of course, in speaking these words, one could add a little emphasis and delivery on certain words to channel that Shakespearean drama and add more flair and theatrics to the insult.  How about, “reeky, motley-minded mammet”?

But can you imagine saying a combination of any of these words to anyone, today?

Perhaps, the person it is directed to might be insulted.  But before it dawns on them this is an insult, it is probable that confusion, perplexity or even laughter might delay any form of retaliatory response.  And at this point, it may well be worth remembering that the ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ as you read the blank expression on their face and they are not sure if you just made these words up on the spot or your intellect and knowledge is really far superior and they don’t want to mess with you.

Either way, do you think those words penned by Shakespeare have served a purpose more mightily than the sword?

Same suburb, different values

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When I walk up the road to our local shopping centre, I grow more appalled with each visit. Surrounding relatively new buildings is – what I believe – to be a shroud of apathy and carelessness.  It seems the people living there are simply selfish, idle-headed, indifferent, purposeless or downright lazy!

Let me explain.

Our shopping centre is on the ‘new’ side of our suburb. I live in the ‘older’ side. I cross a small bridge over the railway tracks and once I have crossed that bridge, I enter what I call the “litter zone”.  It’s a disgrace!

Perfect breeding ground for snakes

Perfect breeding ground for snakes

The people living on that side all live in ‘new’ apartments, paying fairly hefty rents or mortgages.  But, you see, they don’t seem to have any pride and don’t mind living in a rubbish dump.

Shepherds Bay - A disgrace

Bottles, cans, coffee cups, clothing, papers, wrappers and plastic.  You name it – if it’s manmade, it seems to be laying around on the ground.

And nobody bothers to pick it up.  Not the Council.  Not CityRail (its corridors near a parking lot are literally strewn with rubbish).  Certainly, not the people who throw it there. To me, that’s the most disturbing part. A society of no pride and no care!

Our side of the tracks is, on the other hand, a different story.  Most people seem to care.

Clean side of the street

Spot any rubbish here?

Generally speaking, our street is of a pretty high standard in terms of cleanliness – being relatively free from rubbish.  We have an eclectic mix of older and young people and even though, it does seem the younger people tend toward blatant, unthining ‘tossing’, thankfully, not all do.

Overall, the people on our side of the tracks seem to care and have some pride in their living environment.

It really is pleasant to walk up to this street with its lovely, tended gardens and verges, kept clean and tidy.  It is clear to see, people here care and value cleanliness and litter-free living.

The older side of the tracks - no a paper in sight!

The older side of the tracks – no a paper in sight!

Contrasting the ‘old’ with the ‘new’ side and I quiz what the future holds for the planet in the hands of so many uncaring individuals who don’t value their own lives let alone those of other life forms.

I also wonder if the litterers even have the brainpower to stop and think about the consequences of their actions – encouraging vermin like rats and snakes, choking waterways with pollution and debris, and contaminating aquatic life in the process, which they may, in turn, eventually ingest via their own dinner plates.

Do we have hope for a cleaner, more respectful world?  What do you think?

Who are you writing for?

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You’ve just finished writing, what you believe to be, your best monthly report ever!

The words you see on the page have been organised into poetic charm.  Your boss is going to love reading this report.

No boring biz-buzz.  Not this time.

No, you think—this time I’ve got it nailed.  This time the boss’ socks are going to be knocked clean off his feet with this little beauty!

The long-awaited day has arrived.

You beam widely as you outstretch your hand to release the report across the table to your boss.  You leave his office feeling quite chuffed with your efforts.  You marvel at some the ‘pearlers’ you weaved into the content to spice it up.

“He’s going to like this one” you tell yourself as you head off for a well-deserved latte.

Meanwhile, the boss stretches back in his chair and picks up the report.

Your report.  The report you spent several nights working late to finish.

He leans forward.  His eyebrows knit together.  He reads several pages into the report yet his brow remains furrowed.

The boss picks up the next report to read – a colleague’s report.  Again, he reads and his brow furrows. By now, his face is beginning to resemble a Shar Pei digging for a buried bone.

He continues reading until five monthly reports are stacked up in his outbox.  Exhausted, he gets up from his desk to walk out of his office.  He needs to clear his head.  A walk around the block might just unravel his congested synapses.

“Why can’t they just give me what I want?” he asks himself.  “Why do they always write what they think I want to hear?”

The Art of Being An Exceptional Writer

1.  Know  Your Audience / Readers

The ‘art’ of writing requires that you as an artist, a writer, must be able to put yourself in your readers’ shoes to understand who they are and what is of interest and is meaningful to them—what is it your reader wants to know?

It doesn’t matter if you are the writer of a monthly business report or the writer of great novels, the principle remains the same – write for your reader.

Of course, you also need to define the purpose of your communication or message.  This has a direct bearing on what you write, how you organise the content, the style and voice you use to answer what your reader wants or needs to know.

In the case of the monthly business report scenario, your message and content needs to get right to the point of the report – what’s been happening through the month based on data and facts.

The more details you have, the more your reader (the boss) will grasp what has been going on.  Most importantly, you need to report the results of your activities.  This implies you’ll need to do some analysis, which goes beyond just describing the activities.  This helps your boss do what he or she does best – make decisions.

To be continued …  How do you think this story is going to end?

Verb vitality!

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Want to add some spice and sizzle to passive, sleepy copy?

You can. With a liberal sprinkling of verbs.

Verbs are magic grammatical elements. These little gems turn the table on the passive voice, up end it and re-architect the passive to become active.

In fact, a member of the verb family, the imperative, can downright whip a jumble of words, omitting the subject as it does, into a sentence of command. A sentence of order. Standing to attention in short, sharp active, instructional context.

For example, the imperative is very much at home gracing the pages of recipe books. It shows up in sentences such as, “Remove excess fat from chicken …” or “Heat oil in wok …”. As we read these instructions, we follow, without hesitation, the action for each task from start to finish anticipating we can recreate a tasty meal or treat as our reward. This is the power of the imperative. We take action.

Verbs are good time managers. The tenses (past, present or future) tell us when an action is happening. For example, in the sentence, “I’m reading a fantastic novel”, it is clear that in the present, “I continue to read this book” – at this time. But if I said that “I’ve read that novel”, then it is clear the action has been done – it happened in the past although we don’t know how far back in the past. Of course, we could always qualify it.

So, if we want to write lively prose we should use verbs in present tense. It doesn’t really matter if our verb choice is regular or irregular. However, tense does matter. Let’s look at this sentence, written in the passive voice, “As a dog was running across the field, a rabbit dashed under the fence.” OK, how can we sparkle it up? Let’s try, “A rabbit dashed under the fence as a dog ran across the field.”

Does this sentence have the same meaning as the first one? Yes.

What about the verb tense, does it convey the same meaning? Yes. A rabbit went under the fence at the same time that a dog ran across the field. Albeit, the second sentence does position the ‘rabbit’ as being in the spotlight (as subject) rather than the ‘dog’, as the case of the first sentence.

Irrespective, you get the idea.

So, next time you must write that report, business copy, presentation or client letter, turn up the heat. Oust the passive. Use a generous sprinkling of verbs and watch your writing come to life with power and vitality.

Mind over matter

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It has been some time since I’ve visited the blogosphere. The last time I contributed in the cyber community, I was optimistic and confident I’d be a regular blogger again. But alas, it didn’t happen, I’m sorry to say.

Despite my good intentions, it became physically and painfully difficult to put fingers to keyboard at the end of the day (after spending all day on a computer). You see, the episode of ‘lateral epicondylitis’ (tennis elbow) that I was absolutely convinced was improving, had its own agenda of recovery and this wouldn’t be accelerated no matter how much I wanted or willed it to happen.

From my view, recovery has been a slow, arduous process. Even after I had agreed to have a cortisone (non-steroid, of course) injection, which initially did improve the condition, I was not entirely pain free (which is what I expected). Twinges have hovered in the background, which was a reminder to me that the condition was still holding on. As time marched on, the initial relief I felt as a result of the cortisone, dwindled (much to my dismay).

Throughout the entire recuperation/treatment process, I have worn a brace to support my arm and elbow. Up until last month, I had religiously performed specific strengthening exercises but the pain hasn’t gone and I’m convinced, the condition hasn’t improved.

Pain is a funny thing. The longer it is around, the more companionable it can become. That probably sounds a little psychotic but the point is, when we become used to a certain state, it becomes the status quo and we feel less inclined to make a change. I’m almost resigned to thinking that the twinges of pain I feel in my elbow after working for long periods, are now the status quo.

Physiologically, I’ve adjusted accept that my elbow now hurts after prolonged use but I think acceptance is also a mind shift in giving us the strength to keep going and to push ourselves that little bit more. I’ve found that I can work through the pain to do just a little more. I expect this is akin to athletes who push just that little further each time they train, pushing through the pain barrier to improve their time or strength. I do think that it is the mind that allows you to carry on in a certain direction or not. Perhaps, this is a lesson in life to learn more about mind over matter?

Do you or someone you know have an inspiring story to share on ‘mind over matter’ for pain relief, triumphing in the face of adversity or succeeding against the odds?

Launching back into the blogosphere

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Fellow bloggers and devoted readers,

I hope you’ll forgive my absence over the last month or two. Social Graces hasn’t surreptitiously abandoned the blogosphere but needed to stop blogging ‘cold turkey’ for a little while for medical reasons.

My right hand (both figuratively and literally) was afflicted with acute tendonitis or lateral epicondylitis (in laymen’s terms “tennis elbow”).

To be honest, it wasn’t blogging that caused my injury. My right forearm certainly did protest, however, when I put fingers to keyboard so, I took leave of blogging to give my arm the convalescence it demanded and needed.

It’s hard for me to believe that almost three months have passed now. I’d had varying degrees of pain in my right elbow despite regular treatment of:

  • physio with heat packs, ice packs and electrodes twice a week
  • two courses of anti-inflammatories
  • an arm brace
  • strengthening exercises; and finally
  • a cortisone injection which seems to have done the trick
  • I’m happy to report my arm is getting better. But I’m not about to push the boundaries too far just yet since I’m not entirely out of the woods.

    Who would have thought blogging could be so dangerous?

    Having taken leave of absence from blogging, I turned to indulging one of my other passions – reading!

    One of the books that was an absolute must to read, was the final book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” (my thoughts on that later).

    Coming to the last chapters of “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” the book, I started reading “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield. I loved this book (more about it later). Both books uncovered characters of intrigue and curious interest so it was important to keep the storylines separate. Easy, one story for daylight hours and the other for night-time. It worked well. Eventually, the final pages for each story were turned, read and the back cover drew the curtains on the words, ‘The End’. Mind you, I didn’t finish reading the books at the same time. No. The first novel closed was “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest”. With this great work of fiction at its finale, I was able to let the characters and story go so I was then able to focus on the remaining book as my arm continued to heal.

    For now, I’m easing back into the blogosphere with tentative steps and looking forward to reconnecting again.

    Latest Read – Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

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    Book cover of ZeitounI used to think of New Orleans as a magical place of music – jazz, rhythm and blues – Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, Creole and Cajun food.

    But since reading about the wrath of Hurricane Katrina as she struck New Orleans on August 2005 and the horrors that emerged as a result of the Bush Administration’s inaction or reluctance to act, I now view New Orleans in a completely different light.

    Apart from what we saw on our television or computer screens, which was horrifying enough, after reading Dave Eggers’ (author of the best-known work, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which I think I’ve also read many years ago) novel, Zeitoun, I simply felt very angry. I felt angry with Bush (not that this was particularly new – I found the man to be a fool on the world stage) and the abuse he bestowed upon his own people, angry with American injustices heaped on others in the world, and angry with the exalted view most Americans hold of themselves in the world, which I think is precipitated by some sort of collective denial or ignorance that others actually exist in the world.

    Eggers’ novel is a moving true-story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American (Muslim) businessman and father of four who chose to remain in New Orleans to protect his property, despite his wife, Kathy (an American who converted to Islam), repeatedly urging him to leave to join her and the kids, as the warnings of Hurricane Katrina’s intensity moved from Category 1, then 2 to finally Category 5.

    Zeitoun tells Kathy and Abdulrahman’s poignant story and the life they’d created in New Orleans before and after Katrina. Zeitoun is a well-known successful painting contractor in his neighbourhood of New Orleans. He and Kathy worked hard to build their business and had invested in property to support their children’s college education. In general, life was going well.

    Then, in September 2005, Katrina tore through the city. The levees broke and flooded the city with water. Zeitoun paddles in his aluminium canoe through the streets of his neighbourhood. He decides he can make good of the situation by helping others where he can.

    He manages to find a phone that works in one of his properties and speaks with Kathy each day. Then, on 6 September, 2005, Kathy doesn’t get his call and the story of what happened to Zeitoun unfolds.

    I remember the new reports we received on television and I can’t help but think now that these could not compare to the horrors this man of dignity endured at the hands of his own government.

    Eggers is masterful in being able to intermingle the tightrope of suspense with just enough information to stoke up some strong emotion – well, he did for me anyway.

    I’d be interested to hear from other readers if you have read this book. What are your thoughts on how this could happen in America, the supposed ‘land of the free’?

    Fight Club – What synonyms would you use to search this title?

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    Movie poster for Fight ClubFight Club, the 1999 film, directed by David Fincher and starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and Helena Bonham Carter, was adapted from the 1996 novel written by Chuck Palahniuk.

    The film and the book are based on an organisation known as “Fight Club” – an entity that enables men to vent aggression physically by fighting an opponent in the ring.

    The main protagonist is a nameless narrator (Edward Norton) in the film but, in the book, the character is identified as Jack. This guy is an American male discontented with his white-collar job – his ‘place’ in American society. He suffers from insomnia and visits his doctor to get medication in a bid to relieve the sleeplessness, which the doctor refuses to do. Instead, the doctor advises him to go to a support group (for testicular cancer victims) to witness more severe suffering than his (and perhaps, as bid to get him in touch with his feelings). He becomes addicted to attending these support groups as he pretends to be a victim. He meets Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) and strikes up a friendship.

    Whilst on a business trip, our nameless protagonist (the ‘narrator’) meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and has cause to call Tyler when he returns home and finds his apartment had been destroyed by an explosion. They meet in a bar, have a chat over drinks, which leads to Tyler inviting the narrator to stay at his place. Outside the bar, Tyler asks the narrator to hit him – they engage in a fist fight. The narrator decides to move in with Tyler irrespective of the fight that took place. They continue to have further fights outside the bar and these skirmishes attract other men to crowd around to watch and egg the fighters on. This is the beginning of a “fight club”, which takes place in the bar’s basement.

    So, the story continues with Tyler and Marla becoming sexually involved, more fight clubs (called “Project Mayhem”, also known as an anti-materialist and anti-corporate organisation) formed across the country under Tyler’s leadership. The narrator wants to be more involved in the organisation but then, Tyler suddenly disappears as the twists and turns in the storyline play out.

    The film portrays a man’s need to be in control of his own life –

    “He’s tried to do everything he was taught to do, tried to fit into the world by becoming the thing he isn’t”.

    The narrator creates the persona of Tyler. He is unhappy, confused and enraged and looks for a way to change his life. He begins to embody two personas – his own and that of Tyler. He finds it difficult to deal with the complexities of the human condition – with its complicated mix of strengths and frailties, tempered by idealistic views, fuelled by the media, of who we think we are or we’d like to be whilst trying to learn the lessons of compromise and accepting who we are with the good, the bad and the ugly.

    At some point in most people’s lives, this dichotomy between our idealistic selves and our real selves is resolved in some form of self-acceptance or through the process of ‘maturity’. But for others, these complexities and complications in human life cannot be reconciled, particularly when the concept of youth and all that it represents is threatened and there isn’t a compelling alternative to bridge the abyss between youth and old age.

    The narrator isn’t aware of his alter-ego creation, Tyler Durben, who he mentally projects in the film, Fight Club.

    Fight Club represents modern man’s need for feeling masculine and humanly powerful in a world where personal power is annihilated or dehumanised. In the end, the narrator accepts maturity as he accepts the middle ground between his two conflicting selves, which is the best any of us can really hope for.

    How many synonyms could you use to search for alternatives on the following keywords?

  • Fight, fighting
  • Violence
  • Dichotomy
  • Power
  • What keywords would you use to search for films on masculinity and power?

    What other synonyms might you use in this search?

    Latest Read – ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ by Stieg Larsson

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    Cover of Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl Who Played With Fire'This is the second book in a trilogy written by Stieg Larsson. Set in Sweden, the novel revolves around a skinny, smart, streetwise, introverted girl with a photographic memory (Lisbeth Salander) and a personable, dogmatic journalist (Mikeal Blomkvist) who had met and worked together in book one, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

    Continuing the Salander/Blomkvist story, The Girl Who Played With Fire, amps up the sequence of nail-biting, seat-gripping adventures and misadventures as Salander is accused of three murders. Although, there are people on her side, Blomkvist, for one, circumstantial evidence uncovered by the police puts Salander in the frame.

    As Larsson’s plot unravels, it becomes clear that there is more to the narrative than at first meets the eye. The complexity of the story is interwoven superbly, picking up on threads from his first novel, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, taking the tale to new levels and keeping the reader guessing what will happen next. Larsson is clever in the way that he doesn’t cease to amaze with a sophisticated storyline. Yet he really did pad out the some of the mundane activities of the character’s everyday life to give the reader a sense of reality (although, I thought at times, Larsson could have left out some of these details).

    The novel culminates in a cliff-hanger, which, no doubt, crescendos in the final book in Larsson’s trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.

    I can’t wait to read this one to find out what happens!