“Remember that however much you may harbor hermit tendencies, it is impossible to avoid all human associations,” Ethel Cotton writes in one of the 12 booklets that make up her 1960 Course in Conversation — a course in which Cotton commands her students to recite Wordsworth, keep multiple journals, seek out trivia for doling out later, practice the surreptitious guiding of group discussions, and to become citizens of the spoken word no matter how much you hate talking to people.
Here’s lots of her advice. Much of its goofy like this:
“Do not refer to divorce in mixed company if you are unfamiliar with the marital conditions of every member present.”
And then there’s some that should be studied by anyone who ever posts a review to GoodReads or Amazon or whatever:
“In expressing praise or censure of a play or book do not make such remarks as ‘the greatest play ever produced’ or ‘the finest book ever written.’ Such exaggerations are annoying to your hearers. They indicate a limitation of standards of comparison.”
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