Friday, June 06, 2008

What's In A Word?

by G.Parker

In reading an article one of my fellow bloggers was readying for publication, we stumbled upon a word usage dilemma.

A word can mean many different things to people. Your vocabulary is something that increases in size and knowledge every day -- especially if you're a writer.

For instance -- what would you think of the word humility as compared to modesty? Both words can mean the same thing, but two people looking at them see them in entirely different ways. One of our bloggers saw no problem with the word modesty in relation to the topic. I, on the other hand, felt it expressed something relating to state of dress and suggested humility be used instead.

Of course it should also be noted that the one blogger is male and I am female, therefore we see things differently as a matter of course. Grin.

But it started me thinking. Words are merely tools to express thought, emotion and action. If we are writing something that we want the average person to enjoy and understand, we can't write pages of empirical thought stating reams of data they wouldn't care about. We have to show empathy, understanding and a knowledge of their word base.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at it) I tend to write at a 4th grade level (I guess). There is a program in Word Perfect that tells you the average size of word used in the document, as well as the characters etc. It's really intimidating having your word processor tell you that an elementary school kid would read your stuff with no problem when you're thinking about college age people...

I'm not suggesting that we 'dummy down' our work, unless the intent is for a young person to grasp simple objectives, but we do need to examine the words we use and make sure it's the proper place. Telling you that my whimsical daughter loved science, for instance, wouldn't make as much of an impact as if I said my analytical son wanted to be an engineer.

It's all in the word.

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