Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: The Secret Life of Pronouns

Author: James W. Pennebaker
Title: The Secret Life of Pronouns: What our Words Say about Us
Description: Pennebaker and his colleagues have developed computer analysis routines that analyze our words—our tweets, our writing, our conversations, the speeches of politicians, and so on. He found that what we have thought are telling clues to what someone says are not necessarily the most important indicators. The title refers to the use of personal pronouns, chiefly “I,” “you,” and “we,” which can hold some of the greatest influence in our speech.
Writing style: The book is pretty well written for an account of many academic studies (I liked it better than Ariely’s book, for example), but that’s still what it is. Again, the correlation of types of speech to what they indicated gets confusing by the end of the book.
Audience: Anyone with an interest in language and language use.
Major ideas: Unconscious indicators like use of pronouns, positive words, action words, and so on give away a lot. It’s probably asking too much for us to be able to always be conscious of these types of words in our own speech, or that of those with whom we are having a conversation, but he does provide a website that can analyze our tweets.
Wrap-up: This was an interesting read that made me much more aware of the subtle clues I give in my written and spoken communication. 3/5*.

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