Tips for Writers: Are You a Vulcan or a Klingon?

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“Words, words, words.” ~Hamlet

Whether you are a prosaic get-to-the-point communicator or a wild and wooly wordsmith, you’ll be a better writer if you tap both sides of your brain:

  • The accurate, logical, pragmatic Latinate side, and the
  • The intuitive, musical, sensory Anglo Saxon side

Or, if you will, the Vulcan side and the Klingon side.

The two most prominent strains in the English language are Latinate words, derived from Latin, Greek, and other conceptual languages (like Vulcan); and Anglo-Saxon words, derived from old Germanic and other tactile languages (like Klingon).

Latinate words are analytical, logically constructed, and often made up of multiple syllables representing each of the roots from which they are constructed. Hence, a Latin word for talk, communicate, consists of comm (with) uni (shared) and cate (the act of doing).

Anglo Saxon words, on the other hand, are blunt, intuitive, based on visceral responses, often made up of just one or two syllables representing the way things look or feel. Hence, an Anglo Saxon word for talk, chat (short for chatter) simply sounds like what it means.

  • Latin will inform you that if two cars drive toward one another at high speeds they will collide, from the root words for “strike” and “together.”
  • Anglo Saxon will warn you that they’re going to crash! Because that’s the noise they make when they collide.

So, which should you use? Duh. Which colors should a painter use? By tapping into a full range of both telling and showing words, you’ll connect with the reader’s whole mind. Because the human brain doesn’t just think, it also feels. Put another way: You, the writer, are your reader’s sensory portal. Just like their five physical senses, your words will enable them to both understand and experience the story or essay you’ve written.

When you write, and especially when you re-write, use the whole palette of colors: dark and light, warm and cool, muted and vivid. Which of these sentences expresses the idea most fully?

  • Latinate: “Anxious, I ambulated expeditiously to my place of residence.”
  • Anglo Saxon: “Afraid, I hurried home.”
  • Both: “With a deep* sense of foreboding,** I rushed* home* to my apartment,** my tiny* but treasured** sanctuary.”**

*Anglo Saxon words   **Latinate words

And finally, if that doesn’t convince you, I’ll leave you to ponder these two wise sayings:

“Infinite diversity in infinite combination.” ~Vulcan Proverb

“Own the day!” ~Klingon Proverb

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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49 Responses to Tips for Writers: Are You a Vulcan or a Klingon?

  1. I love this, Mitch! “Live long and prosper”! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. grAnnie Roo says:

    I do not recall this lesson from high school or College classes. Brilliantly presented on a plane most humans can grasp, it welcomes a brave new universe, indeed. Kapla, Mitch!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Love it! Live long and prosper!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am going to be a Klingon writer.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Vulcan for sure…but I will try to use some Klingon when I write! Loved the post!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. revruss1220 says:

    Excellent advice. Thank you for that timely reminder.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I wonder what Captain Kirk would say?

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Write long (but not too long) & prosper 🖖

    Liked by 3 people

  9. lawrenceez says:

    Fascinating. I study both French and German, so get a fair bit of exposure to the two language streams.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Kymber says:

    Thank you for stopping by my site. I enjoyed this post and learned a lot from it.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Gary Fultz says:

    After a nice coffee or three days into a coffee fast

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I enjoyed this post, as well as all the comments! I grow overly fond of Latinates–gotta watch that.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I enjoyed reading this piece. I guess that I am not a writer.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Should you ever find yourself playing word games, Latinates will win every time, especially if your playing with two old nurses. When on the same team, as my wife and sister were most of the time, they would use Latin medical terms to give clues to each other. My brother in law and I had no chance.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Zachary says:

    This is a great parallel you have made! It will be hard to look at language the same from now on.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I was just woke up after a night of drinking blood wine now I am thinking that it’s a good day to die – don’t think I will be writing anything today 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  17. jimspoor says:

    Verbose and illustrative. Huzzah!

    Liked by 3 people

  18. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Love it! Can I repost this on our God Among Geeks site? I have shared that site with you? That is blog we use as our nerd & geek fans. godamonggeeks316.com. You might like it. We hit Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, etc.

    Thanks,

    Gary

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you for the tips and..
    “Smile when you eat the gagh” 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Candice says:

    I thank you for the tip. I had never realized the difference made when using these words together.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Pingback: Tips for Writers: Are You a Vulcan or a Klingon? | Mitch Teemley – God Among Geeks

  22. A.C. says:

    Thank you for this. Awesome. Thought provoking and helpful. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Can never go wrong using Star Trek analogies, IMHO. Nice post!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Very creative. I liked your approach. It was fun to read what could have been a dull subject.

    Liked by 1 person

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