Daniel Menaker

7 Rules

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

These are seven of the oldest conversational rules in the world, but on the strength (or weakness) of a panel discussion I attended last night, they apparently need to be repeated (for panels and for ordinary conversations).

1. Don’t lower your voice to the point of inaudibility at the ends of your sentences.

2. Be careful of “and”–it will lead you into the forest of an endless sentence.

3. If you’re asked a question, answer it directly first. Try to use a single declarative sentence. Then expand and explain.

4. Don’t back up too far chronologically before saying what you want to say. Don’t “Michener.” (James Michener often started his novels by backing way up, sometimes to the creation of the five continents.)

5. Don’t use “you know” as a filler. Don’t use “I don’t know” as a filler. Try very hard not to umm too much.

6. Don’t trail off–finish your sentences.  Trailing off may convey that you don’t care about what you’re saying or that you have no confidence in it.

7. Be as specific in every respect as you can.

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