Wise words

Picture 010a1How does our speech reveal our level of intelligence? A person employing word with more syllables may seem more intelligent, but may not be. People practiced in business presentation learn to use vague multi-syllabic words to sound as if they are making an important pronouncement on a topic. However, if you listen carefully you may uncover that they are frequently reiterating what others before them have said– just replacing “fifty cent” words with their own “five-dollar” versions of the latest catch phrase.

Simple words and phrases such as “but,” “except,” “otherwise,” and “even though,” in speech shows the grasp of nuances. The tendency to use this type of balancing words indicates a comprehension of more complex concepts. Student who say these words more frequently  make better grades.

Types of words used in writing also predict academic achievement. Students in college who use a higher percentage of nouns and lower percentage of verbs and pronouns typically make higher grades. It doesn’t really seem to matter whether they are majoring in liberal arts, science or engineering. The use of a large number of concrete nouns reflects the student’s ability to sort, categorize and be specific about ideas. More pronouns were typically found in narrative or “story-telling” typed of writing.  The use of more concrete terms actually shows higher comprehension than the use of abstract words.

However, don’t take too long wondering how people perceive your intelligence based on your use of conjunctions, nouns, pronouns and verbs. Most people do not catch onto these cues. These relationship of word use to intelligence were discovered by recording a series of snippets of peoples everyday speech or parsing the use of parts of speech in thousands of college essays.

Jessica Wapner, “He Counts Your Words (Even Those Pronouns)”, Biography, New York Times October 13, 2008.
Gareth Cook. The Secret Language Code: Psychologist James Pennebaker reveals the hidden meaning of pronouns, August 16, 2011
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