How to Be Benedict Cumberbatch

sherlock holmes
Source: Lifehacker

As much as we’d all like to be Benedict Cumberbatch’s cunning version of Sherlock Holmes on the BBC’s show Sherlock, we haven’t spent our entire life training ourselves to notice every tiny detail. However, all is not lost. You still have Holmes-potential. It may take some time, but you can retrain your brain to become more observant.

Just like any habit, you need to start by changing little things every day. By giving yourself daily challenges to accomplish, like studying the behaviors of people you know, you will be more likely to slow down and take notice of details. It may even be helpful to take field notes, write down what you see and hear and what conclusions you might deduce. It’s important to focus on yourself as well. Take a moment to meditate, see where your thoughts wander to, and you might be better able to focus on the world around you with clarity.

Above all else, ask questions. “Holmes doesn’t think linearly, he engages his entire network of possible connections.” The more questions you ask, the greater your knowledge base becomes and the larger your mind map grows. Deductions will be easier to make when you make stronger connections between different points of information on your map. Sherlock didn’t become as clever as he is by simply jumping to random conclusions. Read up on Lifehacker’s article, Watson. And you just might be able to fill his shoes some day.

Expresso (not espresso)

Stop that eye twitch, it’s not misspelled. I’m talking Expresso – the writer’s style tool, not espresso (the writer’s coping tool).

Forging an honest, unique voice is one of the biggest struggles for many writers. Unfortunately, outside of a trusted editor, available tools can be noticeably lacking. Expresso is great because it admits upfront that style is more of an art than a science – all while providing specific, detailed data. With the ability to detect a whole list full of typical writing weak points (like passive voice or filler words) and specific grammar stats (like sentence length and reading level) it could provide a whole new perspective on tone and style. Hard data, editing style.

Are you angry? You seem angry…

The poor period, once the innocuous mark at the end of every sentence, has taken on new meaning. Anyone who texts or chats online regularly will recognize it instantly; it’s just one more nuance in the long line of linguistic adjustments we make to infuse emotion into our textual communications. The period, especially when paired with succinct sentences, can turn a regular note into a brusque, conversation ending dead end. Of course, outside of the realm of text conversations, the period retains its’ unmistakably crucial normal role. Line breaks just can’t do it all. To see examples and read another perspective on the idea, check out the original article over at newrepublic.com.

Google Search as a Rhetorical Pulse Point

google search autocomplete imageBy now, the NYTimes article “Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?” is all over the internet (at least in certain circles). It’s one more piece of evidence against the idea that the fight for gender equality is ended – something that is unfortunately unclear to some in this day and age. There are some great perspectives out there on what this means for equality, feminism, and gender in general but as a professional writer, I’m also interested in what this means rhetorically.

Google suddenly gives us insight into something writers and cultural analysts of every stripe are thrilled to get their hands on – the things people think but won’t say. There are questions that people just can’t ask anyone… except the cool, white, nonjudgmental computer screen.

Just like stock photography and the noun project can be great touch points for visual rhetoric, Google search data can tell us some amazing things about what our audience might believe. Search data suddenly provides a metric for interest over time (check out the spikes for bitcoin), geographical interest, and as seen recently, it even tells us the questions people are afraid to ask about their children. So next time you need to know what your audience thinks about a certain topic, you can do what just about everyone else is doing – ask Google.