Attending to Tone

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.



Gimme shelter!

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.

dscn3878So 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.











About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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14 Responses to Attending to Tone

  1. reneecarrier says:

    Wow, just wow. Content aside, I comment with admiration. Thanks, Doris! By the way, don’t you think some critical mass was reached by the world- wide women’s marches?

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Renee, I so enjoyed meeting you – In addition to sharing Lynn, we seem to have a lot in common. As usual, Lynn is over-extended, but it would be fun to take a road trip, north to you or to meet in the middle. Yes, a looked at photos posted on the NYT’s website – packed pictures of women united. Powerful.

  2. Julie Stamper says:

    Go Doris!

  3. H Brent Bruser says:


    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Nicole says:

    I read a statistic about listening/comprehension once — that said we retain something like 15% of the content of another’s speech and 80% of the emotional content. We will remember the emotion longer and deeper than the facts. It’s just how we are wired as human beings, no matter how rational and intellectual we want to be ~

    • timeout2 says:

      I wish that I could remember statistics, Nicole. I looked up the Vegas odds on Donald Trump completing four years – interesting numbers but I’ve already forgotten. Luckily I’m married to Mark, and he remembers. As for the stats that you cite – apparently I’m in good company.

  5. marilynjh says:

    You always provide Food for Thought, Doris. Nice photos.

  6. timeout2 says:

    ‘Nice photos’ coming from you, Marilyn, is high praise indeed. Thank you.

  7. 2000detours says:

    Absolutely correct that we can’t judge leaders solely by their soaring rhetoric, as there are all kinds of intelligence. How sad for us that Trump’s intelligence is all sucked up into his marketing skills. How does he not read the reaction to his crudeness? I have a theory that he falls somewhere on the autism spectrum and really doesn’t understand how human relationships are supposed to work. Or, as Seth Meyers said, would it have killed Trump’s daddy to hug him once in awhile?

    • timeout2 says:

      Ah yes, “marketing skills.” President Trump has the sales pitch down – time will tell whether anyone buys his goods. Thanks for reading, 2000 detours. By the way, I love your graphic of the two brains, one blue and one red – each with boxing gloves.

  8. Fran says:

    Great post, I enjoyed reading it very much

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