One of the most striking, and lowering, aspects of lockdown has been the deprivation of human exchange, and especially conversation. We can talk to our immediate families but not properly to a wider range of humanity. The Zoom chat, with so many ordinary conversational features removed, is not the same thing at all. Conversation is fundamental to what we think of as our being, and I don’t believe we could go on long without it.In view of how vital it seems to be, it’s strange that we rarely consider it seriously. About its main substance — the words used — we make all sorts of assumptions, many of which turn out to be wrong. I teach creative writing, and one of the first things novelists have to learn is that much of the dialogue in fiction rests on absurd and unfounded beliefs.