Sunday, 22 March 2015

Writing - The power of words

It is interesting to consider how we use words when we write. In conversation a sentence can be taken several different ways, body language and tone can alter meaning but in writing stories we don't have those two options.

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Recently, I was present at a meeting which became somewhat contentious. The issue was eventually voted on and one of the people who was involved in the discussions voted against a proposed motion. In fact that person was voting against something that she'd previously supported but because of emotions and words said, she went against her own wishes.

Even the Bible has several pronouncements on the power of words one of which comes from Matthew,

'But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned'
If you take that sentence literally and consider what you have said 

in the past we would all be in trouble. 

Image result for sticks and stones may break my bones

I remember this chant when at school, well the first two lines, 

which were used as a defence against name calling. However, the 

whole rhyme is somewhat more telling about the affect of cruel 

words. How often have you reflected on things that have been said 

and in the privacy of your own space felt deeply upset by those 

words spoken?

When we write we are the managers of relationships and the 

controller of moods, attitudes and situations. Seemingly simple 

statements are our weapons of choice and can be calibrated to 

achieve whatever ends we require in stories.

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Tom DeMarco

Author Tom DeMarco dedicated a chapter of his book Slack - Getting Past Burnout, Busywork and The Myth of Total Efficiency to the phrase. In fact the power of words to destroy in business as well as other parts of our lives are possibly more frightening as livelihoods and even sanity are at stake. Also, as I found when working for a high street bank, these corporations have adopted a version of language totally positive irrespective of the negative actions being planned or carried out. This results in people being disciplined and not really realising what happened until they're told that the next step could lead to dismissal. Suddenly they're in a cycle that in its early stages seemed innocuous and yet in the end they could lose their jobs. The process is language based.

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Vocabulary is the tool chest of writers, however, it is possible to develop an habitual vocabulary which can limit our work. Transformational vocabulary is a conscious process of changing the habitual vocabulary that you use and can lead to altering the way you feel, think and subsequently change the dialogue that is used in your writing. 

The bottom line in all of this is choose words wisely.

God Bless