Words and the power to create value

[dropcap]I [/dropcap]always find it amusing the way people use words.

Writing comes naturally to some and quite not so to others, but it seems always easy to follow some ‘Ten Easy Steps’ found online and make a good writer. For example, you are told to open and also wrap up an essay with the same theme (funny why so few ever do), so that you form a ‘bracket’. Or to include a story inside, preferably a personal one, which will relate to the reader. Or to add a famous recognizable line to have your reader relate and, most importantly, smile. And there you go, six more of these, and writing become easy like Sunday morning.

And then you encounter a more advanced course on writing. You decide to invest a bit and become a professional with a diploma. And they tell you the obvious – there is so much writing in the world today, so many texts collide in the public space, so much attention is sought, that the contemporary reader has developed into something new. A sort of evolution. A self-preservation thing, you know. Things have changed so greatly that people are nowadays not inclined to read an ordinary text just for the sake of reading. They sift through all the browsed data and decide where to invest attention based on guts or emotion. So… you have to throw in some extra innovative methods to grab their attention and, most importantly, hold on to it.

A good example of such professional advice is this. Always start a text with a grabbing line. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and think what would you want to read. But then also think about people not-having-enough-time and all that jazz. And then consider your opening statement. You don’t start a story like this:

“Michael was sluggishly tenanting in his residence and pondering about his contemporary torpid state…”

But rather like this:

“‘Ironic’, he thought, looking up the blinking billboard above the cheap highway motel with the three simple words: FUTURE.IS.NOW. The word NOW disappeared.”

Also, related to the above, keep it simple, brother. Good texts are easy to understand. They’re also conveyed in a language that is close to the communication level of the intended reader communicates, so they don’t need to spend effort interpreting and then absorbing.

Or there goes another, deeper level. Among the funniest examples, I have encountered is the use of dots. Like in the sentence:

I.am.strong.

Now I have to admit this can be a very strong tool at times. Especially in advertising, where grabbing attention is all to it. But I am yet to come across a suitable occasion in a text to use it. It is just such a pretentious instrument to employ, that you can end up on the opposite side of the intended action. And there has to be a very valid point in using it. Perhaps I myself do not have that many life-changing lines to share. But on the other hand, I do stumble upon this usage. All.the.time. And more often than not, it is just not worth it.

Again the point is to instantly attract the attention. Like a good subject to a mail. You always have to put good subjects to emails, or else most of those will remain unseen.

But it somehow always reminds me a lot of that episode of Friends, where Joey ‘learned’ to use metaphorical signs and to show the ‘air-quotation-sign’ with both hands. It cannot be told, so just enjoy it again here:

And then, all things considered, I would only add one consideration, which in a way mostly negates the above advice. It is really pointless how you say something if you have little or nothing to say. Or if what we have to say is destructive in nature. Or offensive to a fellow being. There is a sense in talking only if a meaning is conveyed. Looking through the social media nowadays and the sheer volume of meaningless text there, I start to fear that we have already taught ourselves to abuse words and use them irreverently.

And irrelevantly.

 

Words are all we have, as the old song goes, and we have to use them wisely, conscientiously and with much consideration, as they actually do have power. Just remember it was the mere saying of “Let there be…” that brought the creation into existence in the first place. God Himself was mindful of the usage of words and the possible implications they may have.

 

How much more should we?

(Wow, I have just discovered I did find not one, but numerous suitable occasions to use the infamous dots. There you go – I am now among the elite number who have managed to do it successfully.)

Isn’t it really funny how people use words!

 

For more about the writing pains, read also Babbling with a writer and Words are all I have by Martin Raytchinov @ the Liff.

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