I’m currently taking a course that will remain unnamed as part of my requirements for my masters degree. This course is not really something that interests me, but it happened to fit into my schedule (i.e., it was in English and it was in the evening, and it was the only one that fit both requirements). I have many complaints about its time of ‘day’ (7 – 10 p.m.), and the way it’s run and so on, but those are not really part of my current complaint.

As part of my readings for tonight’s course (oh yeah, I’m on time with this stuff; it doesn’t help that the professor’s idea of posting things ‘on time’ means making them available on Monday for a Wednesday night class… and there’s a crapload of crap to read, but that’s not my complaint right now), we’re reading a speech that the professor gave last week to some gathering of foreign bigwigs in Turkey. Now, I used to work on speeches for a fairly large Ministry in my last federal public service job. I know that people who give speeches like to breathe, and long sentences tend to lose your audience anyways. As such, I felt no compunction at editing speeches (be they originals or those incorporating changes from the ten thousand people who had to review these things before they were approved) to contain short sentences. Granted, I write long, winding, confusing sentences full of interjections and sidenotes, but that’s only in text. I have written and delivered a number of speeches as part of past course work, and I like to think I’m actually fairly good at it (I’ve been told I have a natural style of delivery, and I’m now old enough and apathetic enough that I mostly enjoy public speaking, and don’t have to prepare too thoroughly ahead of time).

My professor wrote his own speech, so he only has himself to blame for gems like this one: “Third: We are in what Manuel Castells has called an Informational Age running on every smaller, cheaper and faster circuitry that has facilitated overlapping and cross-cutting policy networks peppered with non-governmental actors running the gamut from large NGOs such as The International Federation of the Red Cross and Crescent Societies to someone with a computer who can self-publish his or her views for a global audience.”

Commas, periods, colons, semi-colons, ellipses… these are all natural pause points in (spoken) text, and allow the speaker to take a breath. I shared that paragraph exactly as it is written on what he has provided us; you can see there exists precisely one colon, one comma, and one period. I’m only on the third page of his speech, and so far this is the worst offender, but it’s hardly the only one.

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