Do you have “automatic pilot” sentences, the kind you use most of the time when you aren’t thinking about grammar or effect, the kind you use when you are speaking off the cuff or writing to a friend? Most of us do.
Do you know that these “automatic pilot” sentences reveal how we think? Take a look at the following sentences and some possible interpretations.
Dogs bark. Simple sentence, subject followed by verb, no modifiers. Clear thinker? Simplistic thinker? Black and white thinker?
Some dogs bark, but not all dogs bark. Compound sentence, simple grammar, modifiers, repetition of idea. Clear thinker? Simplistic thinker? A thinker who hedges? A thinker who repeats for emphasis? A thinker who wants to prevent misunderstanding?
Although some dogs bark, not all dogs bark. Complex sentence, less important idea stated first, modifiers, repetition of idea. Complex thinker? A thinker who hedges thoughts? A thinker unwilling to impose views on others?
Although some dogs bark, not all dogs bark, and not all barking animals are dogs. Compound-complex sentence, complex grammar, multiple qualifiers, repetition of idea, convoluted logic. Complex thinker? A thinker who hedges thoughts? Muddled thinker? An attorney? A trickster?
When I talk to immigrants for whom English is not a first language, my automatic pilot sentences are short and usually simple or compound. I use no contractions. My vocabulary is basic unless I recognize that they are comfortable with English. My sentences use active, not passive, verbs. My sentences seem to show I am a simplistic thinker.
But when I speak to native born English speakers and especially to savvy adults, I speak in long and complicated automatic pilot sentences, like this one. I use contractions and, unless I am talking to a child, an academic vocabulary. My sentences seem to show that I am a complex, well educated thinker.
Take a look at an email you’ve written. What do your automatic pilot sentences reveal about your mind?