Learn proper English, and then make mistakes on purpose!

I have a confession to make: I love saying things the wrong way.

In the morning, when people at work say "How are you?" I usually answer "Wonderful!" instead of "Fine" or "Good". When I call an old friend, I don't say "Hey man, how's it going?". Instead I try to think of some new funny way to say hello to him, like "Yo, what up dawg!" I also make up new words all the time by combining two words, adding new endings to words, or shortening them in new ways. ("It smells kind of... tangerine-y in here." / "Do you want a cup of coff?")

In any given situation, you can imagine that there's a "script" of things that you're supposed to say. For example, when you're making a telephone call for business, there's a basic script:

A: (dials the number)

B: Hello, this is Aaron Knight, Ad Production. How may I help you?

A: Hi Aaron. This is (name) at (company). I'm calling about (topic).

This is the the basic script. But people don't always follow this exactly. In fact, you may never have a conversation that follows this script. Your conversation may sound more like this:

A: (dials the number)

B: Aaron.

A: Yes, hi. This is (name)? I'm, uh, I'm calling from (company)?

B: What was that?

A: I'm at (company), and I'm not sure if you're the right person to contact about this, but I'm looking for...

If no one ever uses the "basic" version, then what makes it "basic"? I think it's that people mentally compare what's actually said to the basic version that they expect to hear. So when I answer the telephone with "Aaron." instead of "Hello, this is Aaron Knight..." the person who's calling me notices that and thinks something about me, such as:

  • "How rude!"
  • "He sounds really friendly and relaxed."
  • "He must be pretty busy."

Saying things that are off-script "says" something about you. It can communicate your personality, or make people laugh. When you learn the "correct" way to say something in English, remember that it's just a suggestion. But it's still important to learn the basics so that you can understand the effect of your choices. It's also important to have good pronunciation, fluency, and grammar so that the people you're speaking to will know that you meant to say it the wrong way!

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