Lately, I've seen a TV spot about the power of words several times. Ann Curry of the NBC Today show is the person featured in the spot. It's very short, but it has made me do some thinking about the subject. The poster picture above is a good illustration of the power of words. The girl pictured is drawn by them over and above her desire for fashion. Good!
Think about the things that words can do. They persuade, cajole, flatter and compliment. Words can also hurt, defame, punish and degrade. Spoken words are gone once they leave our mouths, but our written words are still under our control until we send them to an editor or post them on our blog.
Have you ever said something you wished you hadn't? Have you written something when furious and then regretted it? More than a few people have written letters that they wish the post office had managed to lose instead of deliver.
The point here is that we writers need to choose our words carefully before putting them in the public eye. You might be writing a persuasive essay which is just fine. Look at it as objectively as possible when you finish. Ask yourself if you've said anything to hurt or defame others. I'm thinking of our political campaigns of late. Candidates hurl nasty words like bubbles little kids blow from a jar of sticky, soapy liquid. They try to tear down the other guy instead of extolling their own virtues as a candidate. Once a campaign is over, will they be able to gather all those unflattering words and push them into a big trash bag to be thrown out next week? Of course not! They may have to work with the very people they've excoriated later on. Politicians would do well to give strong consideration to the power of words, as well as the lingering effects.
On a positive side, the words we write can offer tremendous encouragement to those who are floundering in despair. So many stories are written about overcoming a problem of some kind. The reader who is also facing trouble in her life is buoyed up by seeing that problems can be solved.
When I was a young, fresh-out-of-college, teacher of fourth graders, I had no idea how important the words that came from my mouth to the ears of 21 children might be. It wasn't until the first parent-teacher conferences that some of those words came back to me. Things I said in class often landed in the middle of a family dinner table. I ended up with feeling both elated and remorseful, depending on which of my words the parents mentioned. I knew I needed to select my words carefully when speaking with ten-year-olds, or anyone else.
When we write a story, article, essay or poem, we should hink about the power of our words. If published, those words will travel far and wide. They'll reach the hearts and minds of myriad readers. Will our words encourage or hurt? Maybe, we writers need to consider more carefully the power we hold with the words we write.