They Say: Her Point Is

Introducing Summaries and Quotations

She advocates __.

They celebrate the fact that __.

__, he admits.


Making a Claim

  • argue
  • assert
  • believe
  • claim
  • emphasize
  • insist
  • observe
  • remind us
  • report
  • suggest

Expressing Agreement

  • acknowledge
  • admire
  • agree
  • celebrate the fact that
  • corroborate
  • do not deny
  • endorse
  • extol
  • praise
  • reaffirm
  • support
  • verify

Questioning or Disagreeing

  • complain
  • complicate
  • contend
  • contradict
  • deny
  • deplore the tendency to
  • qualify
  • question
  • refute
  • reject
  • renounce
  • repudiate

Making Recommendations

  • advocate
  • call for
  • demand
  • encourage
  • exhort
  • implore
  • plead
  • recommend
  • urge
  • warn

They Say Templates

These are templates for stating what arguments or ideas you are responding to - what "they say".

Introducting What "They Say"

  • It has become common today to dismiss __.
  • In their recent work, Y and Z have offered harsh critiques of _ for _.

This is specifically for refuting criticisms of another's work.

Introducing Standard Views

  • _ have always believed that _.
  • Conventional wisdom has it that __.
  • Common sense seems to dictate that __.
  • The standard way of thinking about topic X has it that __.
  • It is often said that __.
  • My whole life I have heard it said that __.
  • You would think that __.
  • Many people assume that __.

This is to challenge widely accepted beliefs.

Making What "They Say" Something You Say

  • I've always believed that __.
  • When I was a child, I used to think that __.
  • Although I should know better by now, I cannot help thinking that __.
  • At the same time that I believe _, I also believe _.

This is a way to respond to what you used to believe or are ambivalent about.

Introduce Somenthing Implied or Assumed

  • Although none of them have ever said so directly, _ have often given me the impression that _.
  • One implication of X's treatment of _ is that _.
  • Although X does not say so directly, she apparently assumes that __.
  • While they rarely admit as much, __ often take for granted that.

These help you to look beyond what is being explicitly stated and look for the unstated assumptions and implications of what "they" are saying.

Introduce an Ongoing Debate

  • In discussions of X, one controversial issue has been _. On the one hand, _ argues _. On the other hand, _ contends _. Others even maintain _. My own view is __.

This both allows you to acknowledge that there isn't a unanimous consensus on the subject and also gives you a chance to explore which side you believe to be correct.

  • When it comes to the topic of _, most of us will readily agree that _. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of _. Whereas some are convinced that _, others maintain that __.

This opening shows where people agree and disagree on the subject.

Keep It In View

Don't just say what you are reacting to just once, remind the reader if it later using what the authors call "return" sentences.

  • In conclusion, then, as I suggested earlier, defenders of _ can't have it both ways. Their assertion that _ is contradicted by their claim that __.

The Zinczenko Template

This is based on a fragment from "Don't Blame the Eater" by David Zinczenko.

If ever there was an idea custom-made for a Jay Leno monologue, this was it: _. Isn't that like _? Whatever happened to __?

I happen to sympathize with _, though, perhaps because _.

Dobzhansky Template

In the book Narrative Is Everything, Randy Olson states that to make your message clearer you need to work it down to one thing. To help with this he suggests that you use what he calls the Dobzhansky Template (named after Theodosius Dobzhansky).

Nothing in __ makes sense, except in the light of __.

As an example, Dobzhansky himself wrote an essay called "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light Of Evolution".

Measuring Narrative

The book Narrative Is Everything has two metrics that the author, Randy Olson suggests using to measure the narrative quality of a text.

Narrative Index

This is the ration of Buts to Ands. Although it's stated as a ratio of word counts, it isn't exactly that straightforward as the actual words and or but might not be used, but it's a rough way to examine long texts (he recommends not using it if there are fewer than 1,000 words).

\[ \textrm{Narrative Index} = \frac{\textit{number of 'buts'}}{\textit{number of ands}} \times 100 \]

The higher the value the better the narrative quality.

And Frequency

This is just a measure of the fraction of the words in a text that are the word and.

\[ \textrm{And Frequency} = \frac{\textit{number of 'ands'}}{\textit{total word count}} \]

Well-edited texts have an And Frequency of about 2.5%.

ABT Narrative Template

Randy Olson in his book Narrative Is Everything offers up a form that he asserts is the best way to structure communications - __ And __ But __, Therefore __. The idea is that you should start by creating a context so the reader knows what's going on, then follow it with a statement that introduces a problem (the "but") and finally finishes with a resolution. Although he calls it ABT some of his alternative three-word forms are a little easier to understand.

Hero's Journey Template Comedy Science Argument Business
The ordinary world Agreement Setup Hypothesis They Say Situation
The other world Contradiction Twist Experiment I Say Conflict
The return Consequence Punchline Discussion We Say Resolution

Although I think there's one more form that he talks about but I didn't see it given a specific use-case.

  • Context
  • Conflict
  • Consequence

Changing the First Day of the Week in Ubuntu 20.04


I like to have my calendars set up with Monday as the first day of the week, but being that I live in the United States most calendars default to starting the week on Sunday - including the Gnome calendar applet - and while searching pulls up quite a number of pages about how to do it, no one of them quite worked for me so I'm documenting what did work.

Making the Changes

First, over at Beginning Linux they mentioned that you can find out which file to edit using the locale command.

# run this in the shell
locale | grep LANG=

The second line above (LANG=en_US.UTF-8) is the output of the command and what we need to note here is that en_US.UTF-8 means that there's a file in /usr/share/i81n/locales/ named en_US that's being used for my configuration so I made a copy of that file (in case I messed something up) and the opened it up in emacs (any changes you make in this directory have to be done as root).

Now, what that Beginning Linux post and most other posts say to do is to change the line first_weekday 1 (meaning start on Sunday) to first_weekday 2 (start on Monday). The problem with this is that the en_US file no longer has that line in it, so you have to add it. Not a big deal, I thought, so I added it as the last line in the file and re-generated the configuration using the locale-gen command.

sudo locale-gen

Which gave me errors like this:

Generating locales (this might take a while)...
  en_AG.UTF-8...failed to set locale!
en_US:180: syntax error: not inside a locale definition section

It turns out that the file is actually broken into sections and you can't just stick the line any old place, you have to stick it in the right block. If you look in one of the other files that has the line (pick one by grepping first_weekday) you'll see that the block we want starts with LC_TIME and ends with END LC_TIME so I put the line in at the end of the block like so:

% Define the first day of the week to be displayed in a calendar.
% This weekday is relative to the date defined in the <week> keyword.

first_weekday 2

I copied the comments frome one of the Ukranian settings files. I picked Ukranian because I thought UK stood for United Kingdom, but it turns out they use GB to indicate Great Britain instead - anyway, it works. The comment suggests that you might also be able to change the week definition instead of adding this line, but here's what that line looks like.

week 7;19971130;1

It seems safer to stick with the first_weekday.

Next I re-ran the locale-gen command.

sudo locale-gen

And this time it ran without errors.

So, all fixed, then, right? Well, not quite, because this doesn't update the GUI. There are, once again, many pages telling you how to reload the GUI without logging out, but some, like the Beginning Linux page use names of processes or commands that don't seem to exist any more, or, in one case caused the GUI to raise an error message so I decided it wasn't really worth it to mess with the GUI like that when all you have to do is log out and back in - or not care about it until the next time you log in.

The End

Part of the motivation for writing this is that it took me more time searching for what worked than it did to make the actual change so maybe next time I'll remember that I wrote this down if I ever have to do this again, which I'm sure I will.

As a final note I should mention that the accepted answer to this post on Stack Overflow pretty much tells you what to do, it's only missing telling you how to double-check which file to edit, but I didn't find it until after I'd made the changes. Also this page on Linux Config has things to try to restart the GUI without logging out, but trying Method 3 (restarting the gnome-shell) is what gave me the error, but if for some reason you really can't log out and you need the week to start on Monday right now, maybe it's something to try.