- On July 26, 2017
The handsome man and I made some chitchat as we prepared for the meeting. Distracted, I dilly-dallied and ended up making a mish-mash of my presentation, so I ate a couple of Kit-Kat bars to console myself.
What am I talking about?
Nonsense, really. I’m just demonstrating the rule of ablaut reduplication.
Reduplication is when you repeat a word, either with a different consonant—for example, nitty-gritty and lovey-dovey—or, as in the examples above, with a different vowel (that’s what ablaut refers to).
According to the rule, when you have two words with different vowels, the word with an i goes first, and the word with either the a or the o goes second—always. And when you have three words, the order is always i, a, o, so the bells in that old childhood song “Frère Jacques” will forever ring ding dang dong.
Now you can forget all about the rule.
That’s because you know what’s right by sound alone—you’d never say tock-tick, chatchit, or pong ping—so pay attention to your ear and always listen to what you write.
When you read your copy aloud, you hear all sorts of things your eyes alone can’t detect:
• Does your copy have rhythm and flow? If you like listening to it, chances are your reader will like reading it.
• Does the voice sound natural? Business jargon often makes us sound less than human and can confuse—and lose—readers.
• Are you making your most important point first? We tend to spend too much time needlessly setting up instead of getting straight to the point. And the point is what every reader wants to know.