Friday, October 24, 2014

Game Over: Video Games and the Official Style

                Video games have a long-standing tradition of being made for everyone. Their purpose is simple: to provide the player with an engaging experience, challenging enough to be rewarding, but not difficult enough to warrant a full stop. They’re one of the few types of media accessible for everyone from hardcore gamers to casual cell phone players.

                However, any player who has ventured online can tell you that not all gaming communities are very welcoming. Some groups, through a large time commitment and personal experience, have become elites in their respective games, sometimes using their skill to stay in power within the game.  While many video games don’t use the official style of academia, there is an entirely different – and just as valid – style at work.

                Because there is a lack of official style within games themselves, I chose to focus on reviews, rather than the character dialogue and in-game menus presented inside the games themselves. To simplify further, I will focus on one game in particular: Super Smash Brothers for the 3DS, which was released earlier this month (October 2014).

                The first example is an article written for the Internet review site Games Radar. Its focus is on the general public, writing for the purpose of drawing the reader into buying the game itself. It is meant to lead you in slowly – though with the expectation that, in reading this review, you have some gaming experience and thus know much of what’s being discussed in terms of controls. Because the review can get quite technical, there is some explanation of jargon. For example:

              “If, by some small miracle, you've never played Smash Bros. before, it's an unconventional fighting game starring characters from Nintendo's many franchises (plus some cherry-picked guests mixed in for variety). It's you against up to three other combatants, and rather than depleting their life bars, you'll use zany attacks and powerful items to push your opponents off the stage.”           

                Again, this is done because the review is meant for those who are interested in playing, but may not have actually picked up the game before.  The review has some slow sentence openings, done partly to explain what some terms and concepts are. However, this still alienates readers who don’t know all of the terms, or who may feel talked down to because of the sheer amount of explanation.

                There is some degree of shapelessness to the article as well, another characteristic of the official style. A lot of the shapelessness goes away if you know what all of the jargon means, but the fact remains that, when read aloud, this is a review. It’s meant to get information across, and that’s a fairly shapeless topic in itself.

                The focus of this article’s official style is all in the jargon. From ledge-guarding to L-cancelling, dashing to wifi connection, the review is littered with terms the average reader wouldn’t understand. However, there is literally no other way to explain the mechanics of the game. It’s a question of expertise – the review wants to pull in as many readers as possible, but has to use terms the public might not know because there’s no other way to put them.

                This review is actually written quite plainly. As the article goes along, there are some uses of subordination – for example, when they mention how difficult it is to perform some moves “because the mechanic is so broken.” There are also plenty of noun substitutes used, especially in the more jargon-heavy areas of the review. If they weren’t present, the reader wouldn’t understand what was being said amongst all the terms.

                The second review I focused on was an official review, written by a professional. This is from someone who studies video games frame by frame, analyzing them until there is nothing left but coding. There is an instant shift to the passive voice, saying there are “interactions between the characters” rather than simply “this character hits this one.”

                The player is completely removed from the article, leaving it impersonal. There’s no sense that “you” are playing the game – only that there is a game, somewhere, being played, and these are the comments someone has made about it. There is an almost entire lack of shape to the article. It’s taking a path somewhere, but takes its sweet time in doing so.

                More complex sentences are used to describe the mechanics of the game, instantly raising it several grade levels. It’s more verbose, taking a longer time to make the same points the other article did. This review still includes much jargon, though it’s written in a way that makes it sound much more official. For example:

                “The ability to act out of hitstun in has been removed when sent large distances; however, at smaller launch distances, the amount of hitstun appears to be reduced, or characters appear to be able to act out of hitstun. This, combined with higher base knockback in general, makes true combos rare.”

                If the reader didn’t have any knowledge of the Super Smash Bros franchise, they would likely be lost when reading even this small section. The article offers no explanation of what, exactly, the terms involved mean, leaving it up to the reader to decide what is being said. This use of jargon, again, alienates readers who might want to pick up the game, but then discover they can’t actually find out what it’s supposed to be about.

                The final article I found was an analysis created by fans of the game. This is a purely informal analysis, but contains the most complex review of all. Fans of the game have delved so deeply into the mechanics, they analyze individual percentages of each move every character can potentially perform. For example, regarding the character Robin:

                “Jab 3 (Wind): 5-8%, depending on how many of the 'blades' hit. Decent knock-back, killing around the same time as Fire, but very easy to pop out of the finishing blow when it would actually be relevant for a kill-blow. Once you get the 'vortex' going, you can hold the button to have the blades continue, release it to get the final hit. Use at low to mid percent, use Fire for the kill, due to being able to DI out of Wind's final hit.”

                Though this portion is written at the lowest grade level of all three. But how easy is this to read if you’re unfamiliar with the topic? I personally have followed the game through its development and announcement, and when I went looking for fan reviews, I had to look up some terms I was unfamiliar with.

                Again, this article is purely for example. But it does raise the idea that fans of a game are willing to so completely commit to their chosen games, they create in-depth analyses to rival those of professional reviewers.

                What does this mean for video games in general? This is only one example, but it’s a very popular game franchise with thousands of fans across the world, and is thus a very good indicator of what’s going on in gaming communities.

                This sort of writing and speaking going on between fans creates an inclusive sort of culture. Video games are meant for the general public to enjoy, and gamers agree that anyone can join if they like. But first, newcomers have to learn the jargon – all of the mechanics and terms discussed on a very regular basis. Otherwise, they will have no idea what is even being discussed.

                Secondly, they must be good at the game. Fellow gamers will not listen to you unless you are a skilled player – or, if you are not technically skilled, know enough of the mechanics to know what you are talking about, even if you can’t execute the moves. Of course, to become skilled, you have to practice – and yet, gamers very often refuse to play with newcomers, instead crushing them immediately under the excuse of “they’re not worth my time.”

                The process of becoming good at a game, even if you have friends willing to help, is extremely time-consuming. In fact, it takes up the same amount of time a job would. The rewards are, in fact, tangible – in the case of Smash Bros, there are worldwide tournaments with prize money awarded to the victors.  So it can be worthwhile to be very good, but the process of attaining that level is slow and sometimes frustrating.
                Elitists exist in the academic world – but they are also very present in the world of gaming. Those who are extremely good, who hold a lot of in-game power, can sometimes completely leave out those just joining the ranks of fans interested in the game, surging ahead as the rest fall behind.  Though video games are created with the spirit of friendly competition, sometimes the fights aren’t so forgiving, leaving those who are in the know in power, and those who aren’t in the dust.

Kate Habrel

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Writing on Education and English Education: Who is it for and who writes it?

In the sphere of Education, and more specifically English Education, there are a couple of different people that do different things regarding this field.  We of course have our English teachers, ranging from grades six through twelve that have the most impact on the students they teach.  We have principals and members of the school board, whose job it is to evaluate these teachers and develop and assess the curriculum that their students are being taught.  Then we have individuals who assess and critique English Education and the education system as a whole, publishing articles of what we’re doing wrong, and looking at data and test scores and making assumptions off that.  Of course we assume that the first two types of people play a role in the education system, they are the ones who are doing the interacting, the planning, and the evaluating.  They are the ones who have experience.  This third group of people however, while some may have field experience of many years, others who write and critique the education system and call for reform do so under what credentials?  In this critique I am going to explore the writing of the educational system and give examples of some writing that most teachers wouldn’t be able to understand.  In that regard the main question I have is: Who is that writing for?  Are not teachers the backbone of the educational system?  They are the ones who come in contact with those students, they are the ones who we deem responsible for teaching them the content that this third group is responsible for creating.  So shouldn’t those writings be for the teacher to understand?  Too much of the writing about the field of education is being written by people who do not have any experience in the field and for profit.  The goal of education is for teachers to educate students, not for these “elitist writers” to make all the decisions about the people who actually do all the work in the field.
            As far as people who write articles or publications about the field of education, some are very qualified to do so.  Peg Graham, the focus of my first example, taught high school English for seventeen years so the topic of whether or not this person is qualified or has experience in the field is not an issue.  However, the way she writes this article raises the question again of; who is this writing meant to be read by?  This is an article regarding teachers and their collaborative relationship with student teachers.  Just the abstract reads:
            This paper identifies two of the most divisive patterns of tension within the mentor teacher-student teacher relationship—philosophical differences and tolerance for uncertainty—within an experimental high school English teacher education program based on collaborative inquiry and teacher research. Five differences in principles and processes in the experimental program emerged which support more effective ways of dealing with mentor teacher-student teacher tensions: (1) mentor teacher ownership of the program, (2) year-long student teacher experiences, (3) same university teacher educators across the year, (4) content area research, and (5) respect for school context. Using a case study approach, the author discusses how viewing these tensions as sites of inquiry have helped to shape the teacher education program and exploited tensions as productive learning opportunities rather than merely failures or insults.
As far as readability statistics go, this comes in with a grade level of 22.6!  And teachers are supposed to read this?  I got lost just reading the abstract, it was only after reading the beginning of the article that I understood what the topic of the article was.  In my opinion, I am not saying that teachers should not be interested in where education is going and reading articles published about their field, because it is important to be well read about the field you work in.  But teachers are normal people too and I am pretty sure not many people would want to read Graham’s article based on that grade level scale.  So the question turns from who this is written for to why it is written that certain way.  For example, in the abstract she mentions “effective ways of dealing with mentor teacher-student teacher tensions” while she could plainly say “good ways to deal with student teacher issues”.  Why does she choose the official style?  Perhaps to sound elite, she wants people to know she is well educated and has many years of experience in the field so people should listen to her.  That may not be the case but it is hard to figure out a reason why she would write this certain way, a way most people cannot understand or just don’t want to understand.  On the other hand, people who write articles or publications regarding education, what’s wrong with it, or the reform of it and have no experience in the field itself; I find it troubling to take what they have to say seriously.  For example, take the current issue regarding standards in education, The Common Core in Wisconsin.  After looking into the writing of these standards one has to ask; who writes them?  Articles will say the government, or congress.  So if lawmakers are writing standards for education, how come they do not go into the field and teach so to get a hands on approach and figure out that way what students need to learn better?  Because they base this off of data from state and national tests that do not take into account important factors such as where that student is from and the environment or home life they come from.  Here is a Wisconsin Common Core State Standard for English Language Arts at the sixth grade level:
            Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
According to the readability statistics this comes in at a grade level of 17.  And sixth graders are supposed to do this and understand this concept.  In my field experience classroom, these standards are hung up around the room for the seventh grade students to read and assess themselves.  Ninety percent of the seventh graders at my class don’t know what the words “acknowledge” and “distinguish” mean!  Again I will reiterate the question of who this writing is supposed to be for.  The national reading average is at a grade level of seven, yet we write education standards about reading at a level of 17.  This is just plain irony and even comical in fact because there literally is no point of writing in the official style for these standards regarding students.
            As I keep asking the question in this critique; ‘who are these written for?’ I need to understand that these policy makers may be writing for an audience that is used to seeing the official style.  As far as the State Standards go, if the people who write them are indeed working within legislation then they might feel as if they have to right in the official style because it is a government document.  Along with writing a government document there usually a feeling of professionalism that goes along with it.  Using the official style demonstrates professionalism to some.  Me personally, I think that the official style presents the fact that you are educated and are trying to show it off.  I think that people who constantly write or speak in the official style have a false sense of elitism and they want to communicate this way because some cannot understand it, thus making them feel superior.  Another reason why writing in the official style may be thought of to be beneficial towards education is that it is very descriptive.  As far as the state standards go, once you have deciphered what they mean they are pretty clear cut.  The only problem with this is that you have to take the time to decipher what they mean.  Writing in plain style versus the official style cuts time significantly when you are reading and comprehending text.  I think that writing state standards in a format where there is a sentence explaining the standard, then bullet points that better describe it is suitable.  For example in the following standard;
Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
This could be written in the plain format like this;
            Determine two or more themes of a text and analyze how they develop.  Include:
·         How the themes interact together/build off one another
·         Provide a summary of the text.
The readability goes from an 18.4 down to an 8.7!  This is a significant difference and may be a crucial timesaver for people reading the standard.

            In conclusion, I have the opinion and bias that the official style is unnecessary in the field of education, specifically English education.  I have provided some counter arguments that could be made to defend the official style in this sphere and have tried to understand them.  However, I am sticking to my opinion on this; the official style is not needed in education.  Documents that are written for this sphere need to be readable for all because that is the goal of education.  To educate students, not to confuse them or have them waste time in trying to understand them.  As I said in my introductory paragraph, the goal of education is to educate the students, the next generation and not to have elitist writers show off to make decisions about our field.

Cale Zuiker

Truth Belongs to the Masses: The Official Style in Philosophy

Philosophy, Greek for “the love of wisdom”, is one of (if not the) oldest disciplines in the realm of academia, and its questions and discoveries have influenced nearly every science and liberal study since. The rose-colored glasses philosophy creates around the newly opened eyes of a beginner philosopher, however, is quickly dissipated when the official style trumps into the picture; turning what once was a creative way to relay wisdom to the masses, to a methodological nightmare of proper word usage so as to disallow future refutations. Within the sphere of the philosophical community, though the end goal is to achieve new, revolutionary knowledge, accessible to all, the discipline has become a battle ground for supposed great thinkers so as to establish who is (or at least seems) indubitably correct; wielding the official style as their weapon of choice.    
            For a moment, let us revisit early philosophy and perhaps one of the greatest and well-known thinkers of all time: Socrates.  Although Socrates is possibly the most famous philosopher to have ever existed, it must be noted that he vehemently opposed putting any of his lectures into writing.  It could be said that this move on the part of Socrates further prohibits us from understanding his specific opinion, since all we know of him and his ideas are through the works of others, namely his student Plato; yet, the reason for this, as believed by historians, is due to his admiration of plain language usage and his habit of impromptu lectures. This then lead to the genre of the Socratic Dialogue, in which writers used the Socratic method of cross-examination in a dialogue style so as to explain their beliefs; knowing that it is easier to be understood using plain speech that is typically used in normal conversation instead of the official style.  The style of the Socratic Dialogue was genius: instead of necessitating crazy lingo in order to illustrate a complex notion, one would simply give a foreword as to who/what was involved in the conversation for context and let the dialogue speak for itself, radiating truth and wisdom from an everyday situation.  At the time, it was desired for one’s opinions to be widely heard and understood so as to spread the wealth of knowledge, but, nowadays, it seems as though this ideology has been replaced in favor of overly complicated, clever speech to distort weak arguments as strong.

            The latter of the two principles following this concern as listed above, the idea of making a weak argument strong through the use of clever speech, was actually one of the main formal charges on which Socrates was accused of in the trial dictated in Plato’s The Apology.  To those who are not familiar with The Apology, it is said to have taken place in 399 BCE (Socrates was 70), and, it is important to note that, contrary to what is implied in the title, the work is not an apology by Socrates, but rather his defense against the Athenian courts who threaten the death penality for impiety and the corruption of Athenian youth.  The dialogue begins after the preliminary speech given by Meletos (the plaintiff, so to speak), in which he illustrates to the jurors what Socrates is indicted of and why he is guilty of those charges.  We are not sure of exactly what Meletos said since it was not in The Apology itself, but, based off Socrates’ later statements, one can assume it was a very eloquent, well prepared, and officially-worded speech. 
            This is the point that Socrates first acknowledges in the course of his defense, the fact that the accusers are utilizing clever speech so as to convince the jurors of the wrongness in Socrates’ “clever speech,” he states:
 “How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was – such was the effect of them; and yet they have hardly spoken a word of truth.  But many as their falsehoods were, there was one of them which quite amazed me…they certainly did appear to be most shameless in saying this, unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for then I do indeed admit that I am eloquent.  But in how different a way from theirs! […] You shall hear from me the whole truth: not, however, delivered after their manner, in a set oration duly ornamented with words and phrases.  No indeed!  But I shall use the words and arguments which occur to me at the moment; for I am certain that this is right, and that at my time of life I ought not to be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile orator – let no one expect this of me.” (Plato, The Apology, c. 360 BCE; some sections omitted)[i]
He, then, asks for the jury’s forgiveness for his ignorance concerning the official style that is used in the courts; pleading that they listen to what he is saying as opposed to how he is saying it.  Throughout his defense, Socrates repeatedly asks the court for forgiveness at the frankness of his speech as it is (supposedly) completely improvised, bringing to light another famous Socratic virtue: modesty.[ii] Socrates’ humility and use of plain language, however, did not aid him in trial; he was voted guilty, and accepted his punishment and drank the hemlock.
            It is unfortunate that such a humble approach to philosophy did not trickle more into the moderns, but it seems as though it is more important to be (or at least seem) “right” amongst peers in the professional community than it is to be understood.  This problem is then exacerbated as the philosophical concept becomes more obscure.  Take the German philosopher Edmund Husserl for example, who is considered to be the father of Phenomenology[iii] (a word that is pretty intimidating in and of itself), though he is not only an expert, but a founder of the field, the concepts he tries to relay through his works are unnecessarily befuddling due to his language use.  Consider the introduction to the second section of his work, Cartesian Meditations:
“But admittedly, when we let our thoughts hasten on in this manner, to the conception of a phenomenological science destined to become philosophy, we immediately run into the already mentioned difficulties raised by the fundamental methodological demand for an apodictic evidence of the ego.” (Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, 1931)
By the hammer of Thor that is quite the mouthful for one sentence!  To be sure though, most sane people would give up after this sentence, and that’s probably why Husserl is not known outside the philosophy department.  It is too difficult for people to easily grasp (it received a Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score of -5.7 with an average grade level of 27.8), so they don’t care enough to read it.  To use Landham’s Paramedic Method, this paragraph is translated as:
“It is hard to make Phenomenological science a philosophy because there is no definite evidence of the ego.”
Now, I know this is still a pretty confusing passage, but at least now we know what Husserl is getting at.  I was able to cut the sentence down from 44 words to 18 words and raised the reading ease to 33.5, so not too shabby.  However, it did take me a while to decode this, and it would be awful (and unbelievably time-consuming) to have to apply this to every sentence in a 157-page book.

            Why do philosophers (or people in general) use this crazy language style if it only pushes the curious away from their works?  The answer is not as black and white as someone doing a quick Google search would hope it to be: the motives may be a desire for professionalism so that one sounds smart and credible amongst their peers, or perhaps one desires to hide their own confusion on the topic within abstract concepts and awkward sentence structure/word usage. Either way you slice it, the average Dick or Jane is not going to bother going past the first page; philosophy written in the official style ultimately pushes newcomers away.  For example, I gave Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations to my roommate (an intelligent woman, I must note) and told her to read until she got lost, she stopped after the first paragraph and said, “Danni, I don’t know why you read this crap, it’s a whole lot about nothing useful in the real world.  I wanted to stop reading after the first sentence.”  I tried to defend the discipline of philosophy and myself, but all that came out was more indiscernible mumbo jumbo that hurt my case more than anything else; I have been conditioned to write (and, consequently, speak) about philosophy using only the official style because that is generally how it is presented.
            To be sure, plainness and modesty in speech does not make a thought wiser, more honest, credible, or effective necessarily; however, it seems as though it could be more effectual, in the sense that one’s philosophical ideas would be more approachable by those who are not absorbed and fluent in the field itself.  Philosophy, I feel like more than many other disciplines, has a very “elitist” feel about it; unfortunately, leading many to believe that all those who “properly” consider themselves a philosopher must be a sort of child-prodigy or baby genius character.  Although I do like to toot my own horn and accept this as some roundabout compliment, it is disappointing how much of an effect this superficial standard has on prospective newcomers.  Even those who may indeed have a natural knack for philosophy become dissuaded when they go to a PHL 101 course and have no idea what’s going on.  One could say that this may be the fault of the professor, which is entirely possible; however, I feel this problem is rooted much earlier.  It is a rare thing in today’s world for a pre-pubescent teen to up and decide one day to read some Epicurean thought because it sounds exhilarating, or for a child to blow off a playmate because they were so captivated by Kant.  The bottom line is: we all have to start somewhere, and, I feel as though, if more philosophy were to be written in the plain language (i.e. additional entrances on the ground floor), more people would possess a desire to seek philosophy (and, subsequently, the love of wisdom which ‘philosophy’ denotes) if not as a formal study, then at least as a mentally stimulating pastime.
            I do agree that, sometimes, with more abstract or “deep” concepts, that the official style (or some derivative thereof) may indeed be necessary so as to ensure the correct interpretations of the words that an author has used.  Heidegger, for example, uses hyphens in his “wordy” concepts so as to prevent misinterpretations, as seen in the passage below:
“This kind of being of disclosedness of being-in-the-world, however, also dominates being-with-one-another as such.  The other is initially “there” in terms of what they have heard about him, what they say and know about him.  ‘Idle talk’ initially intrudes itself into the midst of primordial being-with-one-another.  Everyone keeps track of the other, initially and first of all, watching how he will behave, what he will say to something.  Being-with-one-another in the ‘they’ is not at all a self-contained, indifferent side-by-sideness, but a tense, ambiguous keeping track of each other, a secretive, reciprocal listening-in.  Under the mask of the for-one-another, the against-one-another is at play.” (Heidegger, Being and Time, 1927; my emphases and italicizations)
Now, if you were able to follow this, and I would be extremely envious of you if you could sans context, it is basically the idea behind Mean Girls or concepts that anyone who has gone through the typical high school experience would know: people like to get into one another’s business, and most people, even friends, are two-faced in regards to one another.  Why did Heidegger have to explain it so crazily then?  It is because, if I were to write the explanatory sentence I gave as a philosophical argument in and of itself, other philosophers would not take it seriously and, if they did, they would surely shred it to bits due to all the hidden implications (loopholes, formal and informal fallacies, contradictions, etc.) that can easily be spotted/produced.  Before the quote listed above was stated by Heidegger in Being and Time, there are about 15-20 pages explaining each of the wordy, hyphened concepts so that his asserted conclusions appear to follow necessarily, making it more difficult for a sound refutation to be given by another.  This is all fine and dandy in “professional” philosophy, but, considering the sort of enlightening concepts Heidegger has in the work concerning his “authentic” way of living, it seems as though it would be beneficial for him to use the plain language so as to better enrich the lives of others.
            With that being said, it is something to be revered if one is able to dictate a crazy complex thought in a clear and concise way, and few are able to do it; the official style has become that ingrained in the “professional” philosopher’s mind.  However, this should then be one of the aims of written philosophy, or, if nothing else, at least something to consider in the writing process so as to sweeten the juice.  It is in the definition of being a philosopher (and should consequently be in their very nature) to love wisdom and the search for truth.  Implicit in this idea is inspiring later philosophers to add on, critique, or create new knowledge concerning their established works or to devise an entirely new philosophical perspective.  If one truly loves wisdom and has found “truth,” one will want it known to all[iv].
 -Danielle Watterson 

[i] Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score of 71.4 with an average grade level of 9.3.
[ii] Socrates is known in history to have been a peasant, wandering the streets without shoes and a dirty toga, who gave lectures in the form of dialogue and stories to youth in the public sects of the city of Athens.  Unlike the Sophists (those who were formally accusing him), Socrates did not accept money for teaching as he felt that wisdom is something to be shared with all, yet he understood that there was always more to learn.  In The Apology, Socrates recollects a story in which the Oracle at Delphi told him that he is the wisest of all men; Socrates doubted this highly and went to those who believed themselves to be wise, only to discover that they were all pretentious jerks in a counterfeited ivory tower.  It was through his cross-examining that he understood what the Oracle meant: he is wise in knowing that he knows nothing. 
[iii] Phenomenology is a philosophical approach focused on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience.
[iv] Think of religions, do they not wish to inspire the masses with their supposed truths?  Not to compare philosophy to a religion but it certainly is a particular way of life guided by the desire for wisdom and truth.

The Official Style in WWII Public Addresses

WWII was a time of great struggle for millions of people all over the world. It was a time of pain, suffering, loss, but eventually a victory that helped to shape the world as we see it today. It is hard for us to truly understand how communication as well as the spreading of important information worked before the computers and smart phones. When we read speeches and other texts from the 1940s or any other period in the past, it can often seem much more formal and sophisticated than some of the speech and “slang” that has crept into our everyday speech. Military and political leaders often gave speeches to large audiences about the war and what exactly was happening on the home-front and elsewhere. Winston Churchill is known today for his role in the war and for the numerous speeches he gave to a national and international audience. His “Their Finest Hour” speech was given after France had fallen and the Nazis were making their way to finish off England. In order to appeal to a mass audience, Churchill had to use language and style that would get his points across and rally the nation together. However, if he had used a completely simplistic style, his credibility and professionalism would have been completely lost as the speech went on. The strategies of the Official Style that Churchill uses, which include euphemism, slow sentence openings, and bureaucratic speech, allow for professionalism to show, but these strategies also make Churchill sound pretentious, and almost too smart in some cases, and this could have deterred some people from actually listening to what was actually being said. 
            Before analyzing Churchill’s speech more closely, I wanted to explain how I came across this text and why I chose to critique it. Originally I had planned on finding an article or text that had something to do with my English major, or a text about book publishing and editing because that is a career I am thinking of pursuing. However, I was coming up short when it came to finding such texts that I felt I could analyze and critique properly. I then decided to think about my interest and passion for history since I chose that area as my minor. I have always been fascinated with the WWII era, and how dictators like Hitler and Stalin, or military and political leaders like Churchill or Roosevelt could influence and inspire the masses of people that they often did. While making speeches and presentations isn't a strong suit of mine, I admire those who can have presence and confidence in front of large groups of people, and it was easy for me to incorporate this with a historical era filled with such individuals.
            Obviously it is in Churchill’s interest to address the public about what occurred in France prior to his speech and to explain why not more was done by the British military to help their allies. However, he uses a slightly slower opening when informing the public about France. He begins by stating that he spoke about this subject “the other day”. So, if at least some of the public already knew what had happened, they could lose interest in what Churchill was saying even before making his overall point of the address. On one hand, he is trying to be factual and straight forward as any public figure should be, but his extensive opening description about the battle almost clouds the point he is trying to make: that more troops could have been sent to aid France, but those troops were making repairs from a previous battle at the time. Churchill slowly builds up what he wants to actually say and almost over-elaborates on the subject. This strategy does have its advantages in other circumstances, but here it doesn't help Churchill to address England’s general population.
            However, this particular speech was originally given to the House of Commons, not to the general public. So because of this fact, Churchill could have written his speech focusing more on this political audience rather than Great Britain as a whole.
            Another strategy that I have noticed throughout this address is the “dressing up” of certain terms or words, or “euphemistic” phrases. Following his opening statement, Churchill goes on to explain that he wasn't saying those things for “recrimination”. This isn't a word that I see in everyday, plain language. If he wanted to connect more to his audience, he could have said that he didn't want to blame someone else for the battle in France. That phrase, though longer than one word, makes much more sense than a more sophisticated word. Maybe he is trying to sound completely sophisticated and professional like any political leader should. However, that could work better among other political leaders and officials. The question is whether this did I fact work when he addressed the House of Commons. In his article that directly analyzes this speech, John Burns states that Churchill was “a man who raised the art of speech making to high literature” (8). Churchill is and was known for speeches like this one, but how did he become so popular if he had a limited or very specific audience in mind? Burns also explains how Churchill was revising this speech up until the very last minute before he spoke. Since he was newly elected to office, I think he was trying to impress the House, but also inspire them and rally them together in a time when it was needed. Another example of this strategy can be found when he says, “I should not think it would be very advantageous for the House to prolong this debate this afternoon under conditions of public stress.” This sentence could be changed to a more plain style in various ways, but I thought of it as “I don’t think the House should continue this debate because of the stress the public is facing.” To me, this makes more sense, but it still straight to the point. It may seem less professional, but if the public was to understand fully what Churchill was trying to say, it would have helped him to simplify some of his statements.  To citizens of England and other countries, some simplicity would be more beneficial.
            A third strategy that I noticed occurring throughout Churchill’s speech was some bureaucratic speech. While it wasn't as noticeable as the previous two strategies, there were instances in his speech where Churchill’s choice of words and tone made it seem like he was above the general public he was addressing. While this is technically true, I feel that it is important for leaders and orators to be on a similar level as the people to whom they are speaking. In one instance he says, “People seem to forget that we have an army.” This may be a mere fact that Churchill is stating, but the context and overall tone surrounding this statement make it seem like people should obviously know that Britain has a fully functioning army. In this period it is possible that not every single person knew of military strategies or the Navy was ready battle. Even today I wouldn't consider myself an expert in military knowledge. Again here you could argue that he is addressing fellow political leaders or members of the military rather than England as a whole. On the other hand, since it is known that he was originally addressing the House, this type of speech can be a little more justified. What was striking to me was that there were various accounts made by close family of Churchill and other politicians that he possessed some negative personality traits. He was said to be ill-tempered and rude on various occasions. In his article “Words as Weapons for Mass Persuasion” Eliecer Crespo- Fernandez talks about the idea of “overt propaganda”, and how Churchill could have used this type of speech in order to persuade the House to believe in his words and believe that they could defeat Germany and end the war. In general, Churchill used this among other Official Style strategies to boost national morale.

            Overall, Winston Churchill does a fairly good job of showing England that he is aware of the situation and speaking calmly about it to the people. His speech has a mix of plain as well as a more official style. There are clear instances where sentences or phrases could be changed to appeal to a wider audience. You also have to consider communication during this era. It’s one thing to read this speech on the internet decades later, but I’m sure most people were listening to this speech on the radio or in a public setting. When listening to a speech like this, it could be harder to pick up the language and military terminology that is brought up throughout. So in that case, the speech was moving and could rally up the British population for more battle, but in some cases it could have turned them away because of how simple information was worded and morphed into the Official Style. Analyzing one of Winston Churchill’s most famous speeches has led me to conclude that the Official Style can often be used to get a main point across and to persuade a larger audience into believing in a certain fact or cause. However, if the style is not used in a correct or skillful way, the audience can receive the wrong message and begin to discount and scrutinize what the speaker is saying.
-Carly Radiske