Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Useful Misread

Neither here nor there, but just now I was perusing the news digest in my e-mail, and just for a moment, I thought I had noticed a headline about the author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  On looking more closely, I realized it was actually "Supreme Court Guts Voting Rights Act".

My brain visually and syllabically reversed the order of '...Guts Voting...' and also invoked the sonic equivalence of C and K in order to arrive at 'Kurt Vonnegut', processing this on the basis of a casual glance so brief that the actual words didn't even register.  So the visual association works way faster than linguistic comprehension.

Maybe the next time I e-mail someone or write a letter with the intention of persuading the reader, I should take this into consideration and consciously choose my words.  It would be much more subtle than obvious tricks like using buzzwords.  Strategically seed the contents, not (just)with words, but with letters that cumulatively suggest the conclusion I favor.  Is this underhanded?  I don't know, but I'll bet anything there are letter-writing guidebooks that recommend it as a trick of the trade.

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