Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Yes indeed, sticks and stones hurt — but so can your words

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You remember the little ditty from childhood? The one that goes something like, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

That is absolutely true — in the ideal world, perhaps. But in real life, most of the reasons we separate ourselves from others or band together with them relate to exactly one thing: words.

I really feel this is more than just an interesting speculation. As writers, we absolutely must learn the reality of this: Words, and the thoughts they convey, completely shape our reality. Everything we hold true and dear, everything we support or oppose, all the good things and bad things that influence our lives, ultimately come down to WORDS.

Example: A primary factor which divides the Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church is based on a single word. Specifically, a word in the Nicene Creed as accepted by the Catholic Church speaks of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. The Orthodox Church rejects that wording, saying it distorts or dilutes the teaching of the Trinity. The difference as far as the Creed goes comes down to one word, “filioque” in Latin. Certainly this is not the only difference between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church, but it is a major distinction which keeps them apart. (Disclaimer: I’m neither Roman Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox, and I don’t claim to have the fine distinctions or details of this in hand. Google it or look it up in a book if you want to know more.)

History and contemporary culture are filled with examples of words which brought harm and hurt to many. In other cases, words or a word have brought joy and strength to many. Indeed, sticks, stones, knives, guns, bombs, and all the rest can and will hurt you. But only words can bring lasting harm and evil — or lasting help and goodness — into your world.

So listen up, all you writers out there. Never forget the power of your words. Whether you’re writing a novel, a poem, a piece of litigation, a technical journal, or just an email — be aware of the words you use and use them wisely. Promise me you won’t go power crazy.
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