Technology Innovations

Word Power

Posted on: 27 August 2008


It is amazing how wonderfully some people can concentrate on the meaning of words and how clearly they can explain them, too. Recently, I posted a query in a forum of English language experts regarding the “seven days a week” phrase that I came across while editing a book.

I was a bit confused why “seven days a week” cannot be written as “all week” or “all days of the week”. The answers that I received were common sense and enlightening:

“‘Seven days a week’ was perfectly normal construction in American English,” said a member from Florida adding, “this way the phrase eliminates any ambiguity of what a ‘week’ is.” He meant that since in the US there are “week days” and “weekend days,” there is a possibility of ambiguity which the phrase gets rid of if clearly written as “seven days a week”.

Another member said, “seven days a week” implies that other establishments are open on fewer days each week, for example, “six days a week” or “five days a week”.

“The mention of seven days in the expression is important as some people reading the article may come from a culture in which the normal working week is less than seven days, six days for instance. Such a person might assume that ‘all week’ means a working week of six days,” said an elaborate post.

In the UK, the phrase is used as good English and is understood easily with no ambiguity. A member said, “The alternatives are not so good: ‘all week’ may mean seven days, or ‘the working week’, which many assume to be five days. ‘All days of the week’ is equally vague, plus is ungrammatical. Instead, ‘every day of the week’ would be a little better.”

In all these answers there are a few important points:

§ importance of the order of words,
§ importance of the meaning we wish to convey in our writings,
§ check whether our sentences convey the intended meaning,
§ understand different cultures and keep global readership in mind,
§ apply regular grammar and spell checks, and
§ bring clarity of thought for unambiguous writing.

It is important here to realise how loaded each word is, and how carefully an editor/reader must read. Thanks to everyone who cared to reply to my query.

3 Responses to "Word Power"

An amazing piece of thoughtful observation….
Vantika has clearly mentioned how the meaningful word in a logical sequence can bring clarity to the sentence.

But in few exceptions, ambiguity can be minimize by “context” and “stress” though the logical sequence explicitly sounds irrelevant. Like…“seven/six/five days the week”

While speaking, stressing on “days” in the above phrase specific a different meaning to it and doesn’t sound irrelevant as well. Similarly clarity in context also helps to reduce the degree of irrelevance. Like the context of “working days” in a week…

These two aspects can be thought through while speaking but while reading to get intended meaning is slightly intricate if the author has written such phrases without context.

A beautiful example to see the effect of stress is
“I don’t think he should get the job”.

You will realize stressing on any one word at a time in the statement will give entirely different meaning and sense (intend)

If the thread is propagating in the meaningful discussion …please make this effort of Vantika a worth….:)

Keep writring for us…..
gogo

Another very interesting book on this subject is

Indian and British English
A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation Second Edition Paroo Nihalani et al

ISBN13: 9780195673135
ISBN10: 0195673131

Pretty nice blog, Vantika. Your second post on publishing related terms is useful 🙂

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