The Consequence of Words
There are consequences to words.
I'm writing web copy for an accounting firm. There's apparently a difference between "keep the books" and "accounting". I had no idea. I'm a writer, not an accountant.
Words matter because words communicate ideas and concepts that matter. They make a consequential difference. Words change minds. Words can start wars and sink ships (at least according to WWII propaganda). It's the way we gain friends and make enemies, find a spouse, encourage our kids, and get a promotion at work.
Words do matter. And words do have consequences.
History comes into play. The use of historically-charged phrases like "enemy of the people" may be an attention-getting turn of phrase. Or it may bring images of the guillotine and Soviet-era death camps.
Because words matter.
Word wars are happening right now on the social media stream of your choice. Hot words. Caffeine-fueled verbal vomit, splattering a half-digested amalgamation of fact, fiction, and opinion on Twitter feeds and Facebook walls all over the world. Try and step over and around the mess, and you'll still feel there's something on the bottom of your shoe.
Presidents call people dogs. The right yells at the left, and the left bellows at the right. There are sides but there's no line. We're just mingling in a ballroom, screaming at each other. There are so many words - but we can't hear because of all the noise. The insanity is dehumanizing. And we've had enough of that.
Slip away from the ballroom. Go to the library. Because words matter. To use words well, perhaps we should better understand their meaning and significance.
Let's try these three rules on for size:
- Read more than you write
- Reading only counts if you read things requiring 10 (15? 30?) minutes or more to finish (meaning Facebook posts and Tweets don't qualify as "reading").
- Read things you don't agree with.
Because words matter. Words have consequences.
For an accounting firm, there had better be a differentiation between "bookkeeping" and "accounting." In their world, the difference is consequential.
In so many other areas, the consequences may be more serious than we first believed.