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Saying you recommend rather than like something makes people 32 per cent more likely to take your suggestion. Using the word whom in online dating profiles makes men 31% more likely to get a date. Adding more prepositions to a cover letter makes you 24% more likely to get the job. And saying is not rather than isn’t when describing a product makes people pay $3 more to get it.
Those words are from Jonah Berger whose new book is a revelation that could spark a revolution. Magic Words: What to say to get your way is not about AI, or at least not just that. It’s about our reaching an inflection point in understanding the science of language. Says Berger: “Technological advances in machine learning, computational linguistics and natural language processing, combined with the digitization of everything from cover letters to conversation, have revolutionised our ability to analyze language.”
It's clear where this is going, the same place cancer medicine already is. You and I can have exactly the same tumor, but you’ll get a different treatment than me, based on your DNA, your genes, age and gender. Today, you and I get different marketing pitches based on where we live, what we earn and where we spend. But tomorrow, marketers will know if you’re a “who” person or a “whom” person, an “isn’t” woman, or an “is not” man. Think of it as linguistic chemo, and…
Run for your lives!
Or should that be… run for your life?
2. Are you emotionally mature? Well, I do have an enormous inner child who may be slowing my evolution into adulthood. If you’re like me, here are some tools from The School of Life to hasten that journey.
3. Crying wolf. Why do some people invent and exaggerate special needs? Not for the reason that some judges claim they’re Indigenous so they can collect honorary degrees, but to try to seem worse off than they really are.
5. Five graphs that changed the world. Data visualization isn’t a post-pandemic thing. At least this pandemic. It began with the cholera dot-map of London in 1854. Here are four more that let us see the world better, and change it. Oh, and perhaps the biggest revelation of all: the map of the world doesn’t actually map the world.
6. The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there, said L.P. Hartley. But the past is also where our curiosity is never sated. Here’s a decade-by-decade guide to the food, entertainment and style that defined us.
7. The Journal of Controversial Ideas. It’s a serious academic journal and you can submit articles under your own name or a pseudonym, to protect yourself from threats to your career or your physical safety. I can see why with subjects like: should children be killed for eating meat? And, if we accept trans-gender self-identification, why don’t we accept transracial identification as well?
8. Conflicts of interest. Two doozies this week, both involving healthcare and life and death. The first involves US Federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who disallowed the use of the abortion drug mifepristone (which the Supreme Court overturned for now). He has blocked access to disclosing the name of the company where he owns between $5 million and $25 million in stock.
The second concerns the infamous Sackler family whose marketing of OxyContin fuelled the opioid crisis in America. As The New York Times reported: “For the past decade, the White House and Congress have relied on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to help shape the federal response to the opioid crisis. Yet officials with the National Academies have kept quiet about one thing: their decision to accept roughly $19 million in donations from members of the Sackler family.”
9. Follow-ups on last week’s blog. The Dove self-esteem campaign wasn’t born in New York or London, or this year or last. It was created by Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin at Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto in 2006. They fought to get it approved by O&M and their client, but the Evolution campaign was revolutionary.
Meanwhile, back here on typo-land, last week’s headline said “Wither the weather?” when it should have said: “Whither the weather.” Otherwise, as one reader asked: “are you whondering where the wheather is going, or do you whish it to wither?” Sorry about that.
10. What I’m liking. Last week 60 Minutes profiled New Yorker staff writer, David Grann, whose new book, The Wager, is a swashbuckling shipwreck story, with the added benefit of being true, and having Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese do the movie. I’m halfway through and ready to throw myself overboard.