Slippery Little Mistakes We All Make On Usage of Language

Sarjo Bayang

By Sarjo Bayang

What Is Language?

By exploration of meaning and purpose, language can be understood as structured system of arbitrary symbols used to convey potentiality. Exactly what is that tells about language in the universal context?

Just before we proceed, it may be most helpful establishing the premises for this universality of language to enhance deepened understanding.

Bearing in mind universal features amid diversity, we examine the key elements in specific context from the understanding that:

Language is structured system of arbitrary symbols                                             used to convey potentiality

Structured formation

Closely observed, every language is organised on set pattern of structures. That is true even for non-verbal languages.

Take good look at how birds, animals, and other forms of nature communicate. In what nature offers, the atmosphere and geological elements present to us observable patterns from which experts determine given properties.

Curious examination of diverse structured elements in daily encounters represent patterns revealed to us through use of specialised instruments at our disposal.

Science, technology and all the marvels of modern times rely on critical observation of structured elements that undergo continuous improvement as modernisation presents.

Having recognised the significance of structured observation, how everything blends into other elements will be further explored.

Systematic interplay

Apart from being structured, language facilitates communication by systematic flow. Other creatures too have their systematic communication using a language that we humans may not easily understand.

You don’t need expert knowledge to realise that even the clouds appear in structured system of communicating weather conditions. Look through the window and see how nature greets you with a face on what the weather brings next.

To speak or write in any language takes effect by systematic interplay. Watch a flock of sheep and or other animals in their procession. You can see how they relate by systematic conduct. Train your dog and see what happens in the dog’s dealing with you or even unknown persons. Animal lovers know how systematic their pets relate to others. From this we proceed to the next element t of language as;

Arbitrary Choice of Symbols in Communication

In contrast to systematic interplay, language is also expressed by choice and use of arbitrary symbols which will be explained next.

Everyone in everyday life chores conducts arbitrarily without most of us realising it. From talking, walking, and may be even while eating, action taken is normally done without critical thinking.

See how that works in practice. Take most basics like walking and talking regular human conduct. Is there anyone who can say that for every word uttered and every step taken, they ever pause for one moment before acting? For example, do you say let me walk then take first step? Next step and then every step of the way. Do you sit for one moment to calculate each step, measure each foot span and then walk the talk?

Rather than taking even a second to think, calculate or measure every step, we all rise from the seat or bed and next we are at the door. Then in the street. Finally, we are at the shop, or in the car. These most frequent human activities are carried without any measured procedure. It is therefore done arbitrarily.

Next time you hear about arbitrary arrests by dictators, remember they are not the only creatures with moving parts that conduct arbitrarily. The way we watch animals walk and think they are not calculating their steps, in real life of humans too, lot of what we do is carried out without critical attention. Humans have arbitrary conducts even though others among us present perfection.

Speaking and writing also involve arbitrary interplay of symbols (words and sounds). Thus, everyone bypasses the occasion of subjecting oneself to tedious calculation over what to say next. Do you count number of spoons or mouthfuls to measure food consumption? Bet you don’t.

Even the shrewdest of human genius will struggle to put all the words on a fine rack then choose one after the other very carefully. In fact, anyone seen taking that much pain will be considered running out of mind. Try it and see what society makes of you.

Unlike playing the game of SCRABBLE where letter (symbols) are selected to form words, in real life those words (symbols) interplay arbitrarily.

Used to Convey Potentiality

Considering all the structured systematic interplay of arbitrary symbols in our daily chores among humans or other elements of nature, there is power of communication which becomes ultimate result.

One simple example is enough to demonstrate the power of communication that systematic structuring of arbitrary symbols is eventually meant to convey. When you are given simple instruction to fetch water, food, or ride a bike, it takes the same arbitrary interplay of words (symbols) to pass that message with meaning. Then you act upon hearing the last word (symbol) or physical motion to drive sense. The person giving you that instruction is perhaps not counting every word but simply casting out enough to complete the communication.

This power of structured systematic interplay of arbitrary symbols is what you encounter at school, college, university lectures, onboard any carrier, at shops, dancehalls, hospitals, just to name few.


From elementary schooling, you would have been told that grammar is the putting of right words (symbols) in their right places.

If that is right, every form of using symbols to covey the power of communicating information therefore conforms to this basic rule. In the scope of this edition, we limit matters to understanding the essence of grammar as stated above.

Overall purpose of keeping to rules of grammar in our communication interplay is to convey a message that has meaning (potential to prompt action/reaction).

Remember every language operates with their own rules of grammar. Those of you fortunate enough to speak more than one language know better. It does not matter if the language is written or non-written.

Here is an example to demonstrate how grammar is observed by every language in use. The question “What is your name?” may sound basic. When the same question is asked in a different language that does not share wording pattern with English for example, here is what you get. The question will most probably be framed thus: “Your name what is?” “Is what your name?” This can come with lot more variations as number of human languages on planet Earth.

Computer Spell Check may not be as Perfect

Content writers struggle with the art of getting it right and perfect from start to end. The task of generating clear, simple and high impact message with optimal meaning does not get done by chance. It is result of focused thinking with proper attention to detail.

Relying on computer spelling and grammar check can be misleading to an extent. You may think all is done and perfect. Here is what that spell check and grammar fails to do for you.

Using the wrong word in given context may not be detected by your grammar check. Also, when you repeat a word more than once in a sentence, it has potential to make that sentence clumsy.  In situations like that computer spelling and grammar does not always help.

Apart from the rule of grammar, a good communication requires critical attention to detail beyond machine power. That is where content writers perform differently.

Whatever your communication requirements, watch out for slippery little mistakes that may produce noise without any benefit of conveying your intended message and high impact optimal meaning.


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