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If, Whether Or Not; When Figurative Language Fails; Texts For Effects.
If, Whether Or Not
The words ‘if’ and ‘whether’ are often used interchangeably. In most cases, it isn’t a problem. Sometimes, though, it can lead to awkwardness or misunderstanding.
‘If’ is associated with a cause and its effect, as in ‘If X (cause), then Y (effect)’.
If I go on that ride, I will feel sick.
The melon will explode if you drop it from the tenth storey window.
In each case, the sentence suggests a predictable outcome.
If you want to indicate options, you need to change the form of the sentence. (Note the use of ‘if’ here, too).
In speech, you might hear this:
If I go on that ride or not, I will feel sick.
(Two potential ‘causes’; same result. Sickness is looming, regardless)
The melon will explode if you drop it from the tenth storey window, or not.
(It’s sure to go ‘boom’. There’s a third possible cause: an explosive?)
The ‘if… or not’ construction isn’t really correct language, though, and it's clumsy when written.
There’s a better way.
The construction ‘whether’ or ‘whether … or not’ is associated with presenting options, alternatives or uncertainties.
Replace ‘if’ with ‘whether’ in the two examples above. The meaning will be understood and it sounds better. Sometimes, it’s better still when the ‘or not’ comes immediately after ‘whether’.
Whether or not I go on that ride, I will feel sick.
The melon will explode whether you drop it from the tenth storey window, or not.
Finally, in some situations you need to use ‘whether' (whether you like it or not) ….
When Figurative Language Fails
We love to use figurative language. It adds colour, interest and extra emphasis to points we want to make. When it’s wrongly applied, though, it ruins the image completely.
Lots of people send the wrong message when they try to use these figurative expressions:
You have to take the good with the bad
The icing on the cake and The cherry on top
Gilding the lily.
Texts For Effects
Writers construct texts to shape the response of their readers; readers react and respond to what they read.
This writer-reader interaction is fundamental. That’s why you should focus on making it a positive and effective one.
10 questions for Better Communication
Here are 10 questions to ask (and to answer)
1 Can you identify your intended audience?
2 What is the specific purpose of the text?
3 Does its form match your intention?
4 Think about your title; what does it suggest?
5 What tone have you adopted?
6 Which perspective are you presenting?
7 Is the content appropriate and relevant?
8 What is the structure of the text?
9 What language techniques have you employed?
10 What is the ‘do next’ (the call to action) of your text?
Are you ticking all the boxes?
The Key Terms are in bold; I have outlined them the main article.
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