Reese Witherspoon, English Teacher?

“But I do want to say, I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said.”
— Reese Witherspoon

This sentence fascinated me. The star displays what language can do. The “clearly” almost implies, “Geesh! Do we have to discuss this?” The “one drink too many” borders on the “Everybody does it. Please, don’t vote me out of office!”

Witherspoon salvages her statement with her final words: “…and I’m very sorry for my behavior.”

One of the biggest crimes against language has been the “if/then” non-apology. The implication of “IF you are so mean that you’re going to choose to be offended at my innocent words, THEN I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Here’s a radical alternative — when in doubt, try sincerity.

Everyone wants a good opening line in the novel they’re reading. Reese Witherspoon proves that a potent conclusion helps, too.

Words matter.


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