Tag Archives: writing

Big Words Just Seem More Empty

By Jason Menard

For the most part, business communications prefers to prefer quantity over quality. That increased volume of chatter is usually filled with hot air – and can explain why some companies ‘blow’ so much when it comes to social media.

One of the most exciting things about the social media revolution, to me, was that it seemed to be pushing companies towards a way of connecting with their clients and customers in a way that was more open and honest. It’s still a challenge for many businesses simply because, for years, there’s been a belief in the power of Biz Speak. Continue reading

E-Gads — Lamenting a Hyphen’s Loss

By Jason Menard

Hope you’re enjoying your uhmail.

As you can see, I’m not enamoured with the Associated Press’ decision last week to drop the hyphen out of the term e-mail. Generally, I’m all in favour of the modernization of language and I’m by no means a prescriptive grammarian.

But I think the AP – and the majority of my colleagues who support this move – got this one wrong. Continue reading

Reading Between – and Outside of – the Lines

By Jason Menard

Sometimes the best stories that a book can tell aren’t found in the text – it’s what’s in the margins that makes for the most interesting read.

I have a thing for old books. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t own a Kindle – there’s something about physically holding a book, turning its pages, brushing off the dust, and inhaling the familiar old-book scent, that an electronic version will never be able to match.

The one thing a Kindle will never do is give you the story behind the story. Continue reading

School’s Out Forever

By Jason Menard

If I had to change career course mid-stream, you know what I wouldn’t want to be? A teacher.

Well, to be honest, I’m thinking being a postcard salesman would be number-one on my list – really, does anyone send postcards anymore? Even if you’re on vacation most people simply send an e-mail with digital photos that they’ve taken themselves – beats the bejeezus out of those cheesy “Wish You Were Here” photos.

But besides that and a few other jobs involving sewage treatment and other similar tasks, I think being a teacher would tax my sensibilities. That said, I already have a solid grasp of one of the fundamental philosophies of modern teaching techniques.

The lowest common denominator. Continue reading

Sad Commentary

By Jason Menard

It’s too bad that so many people use the term free speech when it’s clear that they have absolutely no understanding that it isn’t, in fact, free — it’s paid for through responsibility.

Not to vilify the Internet, but the anonymity it provides gives people a sense of invincibility — emboldening them to say things they would never, ever say in public, with their faces and names attached to their commentary. Continue reading

And We’re Back…

I’d like to welcome you to the M-Dash — my new Web site dedicated to exploring the best and the worst of business communications, sports, politics, and everything else life has to offer!

I invite you to check out the “Categories” section to view an archive of over 300 columns from my previous Web site, Menard Communications. You can also keep up-to-date with my work on Hockey’s Future and the corporate blog North of the 49th.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or send me an e-mail to jaymenard@gmail.com.

You can call it a blog. I won’t be offended. But these curiously long posts are less bloggy and more columny in nature. No matter what you call it, I hope you find something entertaining, informative, evocative — or, preferably, all three. And you can click on the “About” link to learn more.

Thanks for joining me!

Dead Language Breathes Life into Modern English

By Jason Menard

I think it was Elvis who said it best when he sang, “it’s only words and words are all I have to steal your heart away.” And speaking from personal experience, if my words are any more eloquent, it is directly the result of the Latin training I received at South Secondary School.

Wednesday’s edition of The London Free Press profiled the retirement of Neil Tenney, the Latin teacher at that educational institution. And it also highlighted the fact that this program is the last of its kind in both the Thames Valley District and London Catholic School Boards – and that’s a shame.

Currently I make my living with words. Corporate communications expert by day, freelance columnist, sports writer, and radio fill-in by night, it has been through my abilities with the English language that I’m able to put food on my family’s table. And for that I have to thank my Latin teacher Jean Mayhew – formerly of South Secondary School.

You see, I didn’t learn English in English class. Far from it. I actually learned my English grammar during my time in Latin and French classes at South and, later, Western. It was there I learned about verb tenses, conjugation, and – most importantly – flow.

So while we’d be chuckling through the Cambridge Latin course reading silly stories about thepater Caecillius and his family, we were actually building a foundation upon which our appreciation of language grew. But without that foundation in the future, where will people learn?

I grew up in a time of English courses focusing on reading comprehension. It didn’t matter if you could spell your words or construct a coherent though as long as the general idea was expressed. And that continues, in large part, to this day. My wife and I fight a daily battle with our 12-year-old son about the importance of developing proper language skills, when his argument – justified by solid grades – is that “you get the point.”

I’m not a stickler for grammar. Few people annoy me more than those who absolutely refuse to dangle their participles or split their infinitives. Grammar is fluid and what sounds right is often less jarring and more effective than what the prescriptive grammarians would condone from their ivory linguistic towers. I’ve got no problems with people using “they” in the singular if it sounds better. After all, grammar is designed to let words flow and to allow concepts to be expressed – not to rigidly force everyone to conform to one ideal that may no longer apply.

Life goes on. Things change and we’re inundated with new cultural, technological, and linguistic influences each and every day. If we remain dogmatically chained to our linguistic past, we’ll be ill-prepared to deal with the challenges of the future.

However, one should have a solid foundation upon which the future can be built. Language – and one’s understanding of it – enables people to experience a world of influences that may be limited by lack of comprehension. For me, Latin and French gave me the structure and knowledge that was lacking from my English training, wherein my teachers were more concerned about me understanding what was said than how it was said.

If I can boast any way with words, it’s because of that Latin and French training. Before I became immersed in those language studies, I was the product of my teaching. I understood concepts and could generally express them – but it was far from precise and it was far from proper.

Words are one of the best ways we have to convey feelings, emotions, and experiences. It is one thing to string together a few words to get an idea out there – it’s something much different to use language to allow the reader to experience the idea through the lyric effect of words. And let’s not even start how Latin has aided in my rudimentary understanding of languages like Spanish and Portuguese.

We live in a world where instant messaging and social interactive media has turned conversation into a competitive race. It’s not about saying something properly, it’s about saying it in as few characters as possible. Yet, eventually, those IMers will have to converse with a real person. They’ll have to hand in an assignment – not to mention a resumé — that isn’t peppered with emoticons or LOL’s. The question is where will they find the skills to do so?

I was lucky. I had Ms. Mayhew’s Latin class to steer me on the right course. Little did I know that weekly bingos, annual banquets, and light-hearted learning would have such an impact on my life. But it has, and I’m a better writer — and a better man – for it. Hopefully generations of students at South will continue to have the option to take this class, because its value is immeasurable.

It’s just too bad that no other students in the region will be able to start a day with Ms. Mayhew’s, or any other Latin teacher’s, terrible Latin jokes like semper ubi sub ubi – or always [where] under [where]. It may have been a terrible pun, but it was a fantastic foundation for the future.

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