By studying President Donald Trump’s use (and misuse) of the English language, we can gain a deeper understanding of how he thinks. Such study yields valuable information to a voter. Certainly foreign intelligence agencies and heads of state examine his writings to prepare for their interactions with him.
I’m not talking about prepared speeches written by others and read from a teleprompter. I refer to Trump’s extemporaneous remarks to reporters and his voluminous trove of tweets. In fact, these two sources reveal the most about the 45th president than anything that has been said about him. Indeed, adversaries such as North Korea and Russia parse every sentence Trump tweets in order to get inside his head and gain some strategic advantage.
One does not need to read many of the president’s tweets or read them too closely to understand what I mean. Words such as “sad,” “very,” “beautiful” are powerful modifiers, but when they’re used to describe everything from Democrats to the Senate healthcare bill to coal, they lose their meaning (if everything is sad, then nothing is). And indefinite pronouns like “somebody” and “anybody” are sufficiently vague to obfuscate the fact that the writer really doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. (“Somebody told me ….” Who was it?)
In fact, we can gain a deeper understanding of how anyone thinks just by studying their use (and missuse) of the language, particularly in writing. We can estimate the writer’s education by examining his or her word choice, punctuation, spelling, and usage. We can also determine the writer’s maturity by gauging how well or how poorly he or she defends an argument. Students must understand that others will judge them by their writing throughout their adult lives: high school teachers, college and graduate school professors, and employers, to name just a few.
I will leave it to the reader to decide how to best use my thoughts and those of New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow when evaluating Mr. Trump. I will only say that, judging from his tweets, Donald Trump has the vocabulary and reasoning ability of a high school sophomore. Tenth grade students who are reading this may congratulate themselves on already having the linguistic prowess to become president. I suggest, however, that any celebration on their part is premature. While they are constitutionally prohibited from seeking the nation’s highest office until they are 35 years old, the question students must answer for themselves is this: do they really want to be judged as having the same educational and maturity level as the current president?
If the answer is no, which I suspect that it is, then I implore all students to take responsibility for their education by taking it seriously. Do your homework. Study. If you have no homework, study something you’ve already studied. Read often and widely, for a well-read person is seldom an awful writer. Learn why the language works the way it does and how to use it, for it is the only tool that will help you land a job.
And, should you ever become president, knowing how to write well will keep a certain New York Times columnist from pointing out how poorly you use the language.