|Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado |
Whether speaking or writing, thinking about word choice and the message we want to convey is important.
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Word choice matters when giving directions. Have you ever been lost and stopped to ask directions and felt more confused after the person explains? Even worse, you ask directions and two or three people try to help you at the same time.
Words are powerful and once uttered cannot be retrieved. Word choice can enhance or destroy a relationship. Have you ever thought, I didn't mean what I said?
In the words of Yehuda Berg, "Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble."
We all start out not knowing any words. As infants, we vocalize sounds. Eventually, those sounds become words. Later, those words can be strung into phrases and sentences that humans utilize for communication.
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When we communicate in writing, we have the option of revising before we publish. I consider this an extraordinary opportunity to look at my word choice. Do I really mean he was a nice guy or can I describe my hero more vividly?
I've taught writing for more than twenty-five years to a broad range of learners--from children as young as eight to grown-ups in their seventies. One of the areas I always emphasize, once that first draft is done, is to look at word choice. Is it a small dog or a ten pound poodle? Would she walk or saunter or march out of a room?
I'm reminded of an episode of Friends when Joey wants to support Chandler and Monica by writing a letter to the adoption agency. Joey struggles with the writing until Ross shows him how to access the online thesaurus. Naturally, the resulting letter is hilarious because Joey used the thesaurus to replace almost all of his original nouns and verbs. He had no idea about nuance.
In writing, word choice can make the difference in a book that is well received and a book that flops.
"My task, which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel--it is, before all, to make you see." Joseph Conrad
Interested in learning more about word choice? Join us for an online writing class on Saturday, March 27. Strategies to Jump Start Your Writing