FEB. 9, 2019


Are There Words Between the Lines?

by Elpidio R. ESTIOKO

There is a popular idiomatic expression which says: “Read between the lines!” They may not have words in between… literally, but the phrase may suggest that there are missing words or ideas that were actually hidden in vanishing ink or otherwise concealed between obvious oral discourse.

In one of my classes in investigative reporting and also in creative writing, I always mention to my students that they need to be creative, innovative, analytic, and must know “how to read between the lines”. Then one of my students stood up and said: “But sir, there are no words between the lines!”

Technically, yes, there are no words between the lines but somehow there are hidden meanings in the sentence or expression. We need to educate our students, or everyone, to understand the intent of the sender/author of the message. This early method of transmitting written coded messages, to my knowledge, has evolved and has come to contemporary times to be associated with finding meaning or evaluating meaning in a text or oral discussion that is not obvious in a superficially done manner. Well, I think this idiom applies to both written and oral or verbal communications where one must read between the lines or expression to better understand what’s being relayed to the receiver of the message that is coming from the sender.

In my Language Arts/Reading class, I always remind students we need to try to understand someone’s real feelings or intentions from what they say or write. In short, we need to infer or figure out the real or hidden meaning behind the shallow surface of the word. We need to understand what is meant by something that is not written or said clearly or openly. After listening/evaluating to what she or he said, you can begin to see what she or he really intends to convey. Don’t believe everything you read literally, hook and sinker! Learn to read between the lines!

There are many ways or methods how to read between the lines, according to Wikihow.com. The most important thing, however, is that in analyzing what people say or write, you need to listen carefully. Listening closely to what people say or write is essential to reading between the lines, the website emphasized. Some good listening techniques include smiling and nodding to show you are paying attention; using neutral statements to encourage the person to keep talking, such as “yes,” “I see,” and “go on”; or rephrasing what the person has just said to ensure that you have understood them.

Another technique which most reporters do, is take notes so that you can analyze them later. This might be time-consuming but taking notes on what someone says will allow you to return to the information later and analyze it. Write down anything that seems important or that you’d like to come back to.

This is important: Notice what the person does not say! What the person leaves out may be important as what they include. After the conversation, consider whether they left out anything that you think is important. For example, if a co-worker avoided talking about their progress on a special project, then they might be struggling with the project.

Don’t forget to ask for clarity. After the conversation, it is fine to ask the person about anything that was unclear to you. Be honest if you don’t understand something or if you want more information about something they said.

Same thing in written language: you need to analyze the wordings and figure out what the writer wants to convey based on the facts or details of the story. Try to connect the sentences and check on possible meanings in between. You need to read carefully and understand the verbiage in order to read between the lines.

Also, find out what the writer does not include and exclude in the sentences. There are things in between the author would like to say.

So, whether it is written or verbal, we need to understand how to read between the lines by utilizing the suggestions we just mentioned. Somehow, this will help [you in getting what the sender of the message would really want to convey.

This reminds me of author Shannon L. Alder who said: “Intelligence is not expecting people to understand what your intent is; it is anticipating how it will be perceived.” So with Joyce Rachelle who expounded on this by saying: “There is more to hear in what is not said.”

I won’t also forget what Laurie Buchanan, PhD. once said: “One of the benchmarks of great communicators is their ability to listen not just to what’s being said, but to what’s not being said as well. They listen between the lines.”

So, are there words between the lines? You bet!

For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.


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