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Image by Indiewire

Register Manner

The way a person speaks or responds to an utterance can reveal the manner in which they speak. Manner is the way a persons behaves towards others and it refers to a person’s style or approach during discourse. For example a person’s utterance or response/reply might be taken to mean among other things to show that the person is being polite, graceful, civil, respectful, gentle, courteous if they are made in a positive way.

Conversely when the utterance/response is made in a negative way it could be rude, contemptuous, insincere, hostile, ungracious, intolerant or uncultured among a host of possible answers.

It is important to note that words used to describe the manner in register situations can sometimes be adverbs that are used to describe one’s likely manner given what they are saying in the given situation. The key word being adverb. Thus most adverbs that can be used that can be used to describe a person’s bearing or way of behaving towards/with others can be modified into register solutions for questions asking for a person’s manner usually by dropping the -ly suffix that ends most English adverbs.

For example nervously can be turned into nervous, patiently into patient, openly into open, innocently into innocent,greedily into greedy, foolishly into foolish, enthusiastically into enthusiastic, eagerly into eager, coldly into cold, menacingly into menacing and cautiously into cautious. You should note that these are just few examples. You should go back to the English Notes Home and click on a word list section to view a list of common manners and do your own research so as to become more proficient.

Manner vs Character

A good number of words that are used to describe manner can also be used to describe one’s character, for example aggressive, causing some students to confuse between the two. While manner refers to the way a person speaks/behaves in the moment character is more enduring. A good analogy is that manner is like weather (the present state of the atmosphere) while character is like climate (the prevailing atmospheric conditions in a given place and time). Go back to English Notes Home and click on character to learn more about his difference.


1. Your cellphone rings and when you pick up the person calling asks to speak to someone unknown to you. You say:

i) “Never heard of him. Sorry.”

ii) “I am sorry but I think you dialed the wrong number.”

In each case what will the caller think of your manner? Number your answers i) and ii) separately.


i) She/He will think I am being curt/brusque/abrupt/unfriendly/impolite/discourteous/rude.

Comment: You only need to provide one answer although you can provide two answers using the conjunction and for example: She will think I am being curt and impolite. It is important to note that a lot of people (Shona speakers) constantly confuse the words harsh and its Shona homophone hasha. The two are not similar at all for while the English word “harsh” refers to a tendency towards meting out severe punishment the Shona word is used to mean “short tempered” or “anger.” Whatever your native language, if English is your second you need to constantly bear in mind these subtle differences or they will be your undoing.

Students who provided harsh, proud, haughty, rough, blunt, rough (another word that is often used differently in the vernacular) and bad mannered would get a 0 for their troubles. “Bad mannered” and “rude” are two vague words that are often used as some sort of panacea by students. You should always try to be as precise as possible and avoid throwing the two around. In fact “bad mannered” is guaranteed to get you zero credit because it is such an imprecise phrase.

ii) He/She will think I am polite/courteous.

Comment: You would also get no credit for using the phrase “good mannered” which is just as bad as its counterpart “bad mannered”. Although almost similar in meaning  the word “civil” would also not get you credit since it is usually employed in situations where a person seeks to deescalate a situation especially in a potentially unpleasant exchange. For example a neighbors conversing about how one of the neighbor’s dog is making a lot of noise or during a disagreement or debate.