Precise Language

I am noticing again that when I make the effort to be exactly precise (I know – a redundancy) as I explain a procedure or a concept to a student how they often give a subtle nod of understanding, meaning “I get it.”  It is easy to fall into the habit of saying “this” or “that” rather than “the rational expression” or “the denominator” or “the factor.”  And it is an effort – choosing the exactly right word.  I think I am noticing this again because I seem to be  getting ahead of my thoughts in everyday conversation, that I will exchange “left” for “right” or “yesterday” for “tomorrow”.  My ability to leave a part of my communication to subconscious habit seems to be eroding.  I also notice when I am typing that my fingers finish words whether I want them to or not, say “they” for “the” or “seal” for “sea”.  I am now reading  over everything I write including emails.  My writing at anytime as tended toward limpness rather than limpidity – witness some of my blog posts.  The extra scrutiny is necessary.

I am currently reading Joseph Conrad’s Victory slowly in order to savor its exactitude and atmosphere.  Precise phrasing is so important to student learning. Maybe some of Conrad’s carefulness will rub off on me.


About jrh794

I am a sixty-five year old math instructor at Southern Oregon University. I taught at the College of the Siskiyous in Weed California for twenty-six years. Prior to that I worked as a computer programmer, carpenter and in various other jobs. I graduated from Rice University in 1967 and have a MS in Operations Research from Stanford. In the past I have hand-built a stone house and taken long solo bicycle tours. Now I ride my mountain bike and play golf for recreation.
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