backgrounding contrast and pattern euphemism omission strategies for emphasis home
simple but effective
The most common strategy in any language to emphasize something is simple: say it over and over and over again.
Even children, who are relatively unsophisticated users of the language, know how to pile it on. And while their method may not be elegant, it is none the less clear.
Monsters, bathroom, big teeth, scary--any questions?
Monster, bathroom, big teeth, scary—any questions?
As we get older and more experienced, we develop more sophisticated methods (check out the other strategies). It would be a mistake, however, to leave this valuable tool behind in the preschool. Here’s your boyfriend or girlfriend, your Mom or Dad:
advice for on-pilers
how to pile on
The basic methods of piling on are simple:
You can string out a list of intensifiers (like the scary monster’s little sister)
You can simply repeat what you want emphasized (like Mom or Dad with the car)
You can say basically the same thing in many different ways (like the offended lover with the list)
when to pile on
Notice that in all the examples, piling on seems to be connected to strong emotions or feelings.
Piling on is the most basic strategy we have to emphasize.
We fall back on it when we are at a loss for words, or, in the case of younger (or less experienced adult) language learners, when we haven’t yet learned more complicated and elegant ways to emphasize.
whether to pile on
The connection to strong feelings or emotions should guide your use of piling on to achieve emphasis, especially in your writing.
Remember:Techniques for piling on are the least sophisticated ways to achieve emphasis, and the first method—simple repetition—is the least effective of all.
Try avoiding...Repetition of intensifiers (e.g. very, very aware or extremely, extremely interesting).
Try more of...Listing the same idea in different forms. For example, you are making a speech in front of the city council.
We must stop the bulldozers. We must impose an immediate moratorium on all new construction west of the highway. We must organize all the people in the county to stand up for their property rights. We must all join together in the effort, etc.
The repetition of "we must" is like throwing one log after another on a bonfire. Piling on may be simple, but it sparks some serious verbal flames!