I’m conflicted. President Trump’s “My way or the highway” is not working for me.
On one hand, I acknowledge that President Trump won the election and as a believer in the democratic process, I owe him my support. On the other hand, the democratic process has been compromised by Super-PAC money, and I cannot support an elected official who encourages rancor and questions the truthfulness of the mainstream press.
Annoyed with President Trumps primary school, on-the-stump rhetoric, I undertook a readability study a couple of days ago. I used the Edward B. Fry Readability Scale used by teachers to learn each student’s reading level. The Fry index calls for randomly selecting three, 100-word passages. Counting the number (fractional number) of sentences and the number of syllables within the 100-word selection, the teacher can index the reading level.
In my case, I wanted to choose unscripted material not been honed by the hand of speech writers. To that end, I chose to analyze President Obama’s informal remarks at his final press conference on January 18, and president-elect Trump’s news conference on January 11. President Obama’s readability level was 12th grade; Donald Trump’s word choices were suitable for someone reading at a fifth grade level. I smugly smiled in satisfaction. My ungenerous assumptions of Donald Trump’s speech were true.
But then, I remembered my mother saying and then repeating the same to my children: “It is not what you say so much as how you say it.” Perhaps using a readability index was biased. Ernest Hemingway came to mind. He favored short sentences and straight-forward prose. How unfair to diminish Hemingway and his succinct prose when compared to Charles Dickens, the king of long sentence writers!
Also, how can you compare gifted orators to plain speaking people? Without a doubt, Donald Trump is a plain speaker. Could I evaluate his speech by another measure? Instead of looking for long sentences and polysyllabic words, maybe I should attend to tone because his combative tone sets me on-edge. When I hear President Trump speak, I clench my teeth. If I’m not careful, I’ll destroy the enamel.
So I did a bit of research and found a number of tone analyzer sites that will flag words and phrases that may convey unintended emotion. Targeted emotions include anger, disgust, fear, joy, and sadness. The sites also claim to determine your style as analytical, confident, or tentative. Social tendencies include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional range.
OK. Forget readability. I might try to analyze the tone, but you know what? I shouldn’t be doing that. Attending to tone is President Trump’s job. Who knows? Donald Trump might say something that I would actually agree with. As it is, his belligerent tone does-him-in and tunes me out.
First, President Trump needs to attend to tone, and that accomplished, if he wants to broaden his base, he can begin work on content.