Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Always fascinating — why do we give words so much power over us?

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I’ve always found this fascinating — why do we give words so much power over us? Why do we feel some words are emotionally charged, or embarrassing, or even taboo? Words, really, are meant to communicate, and yet we let them have the power to hurt us, to anger us, to hurt others.

For example, if I were to write ad copy (here we are back to copywriting again) for a feminine hygiene product and use the phrase “vaginal dryness,” no one would be concerned. When a playwright, Broadway production crew, and actors create an award-winning presentation called “The Vagina Monologues,” the name itself stirs controversy.

Maybe that’s a lame example, but you get my idea. We only react to words and phrases the way we do because we or our society have created an emotional charge that overpowers simple “dictionary meaning” in most of the language. And even though the words, thoughts, and social/culutural trappings change from one language to another, virtually every spoken and written language does the same.

I’ve said all this as a caution for you when you write. Be alert and careful as you choose words to express your thoughts, from writing dialog to creating an action scene. Learn as much as you can about language usage and the cultural context of the language you use. It’ll make your writing more effective — and could even save you some embarrassment.

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