The Power of Words
It seems like such a simple thing - words. We use them all the time, often not really thinking about our choices or their indirect effect. Writing emails, letters, speaking with friends... word choices can make such a huge difference, and so often we forget this.
Choosing words wisely and contemplating their significance takes time and consideration. And, while essential, EDITING is often a quick afterthought. Truth is, editing is a skill - and one that most of my students are so reluctant to do. They hate it and in truth, I often do too. But,we all need to remember to look at spelling, grammar, keeping the content in one consistent tense, and most importantly, word choice (one of my 2013 resolutions).
I have a friend and colleague who is young, single, and dating. She advises her single girl-friends that before emailing a guy they're interested in, to send it off first to a girl-friend (whom she calls a 'gate keeper') for two reasons. One to pause and reconsider even sending it (is she sounding too eager, too harsh, too sassy, too cute....) and if she should send it, does it convey the message she wants. She's smart!
So here is my gift to you, my loyal friends, followers, and valued guests...
The Gift of Words -in three parts
- a video
- editing guidelines / advice
- suggested links or editing resources and for illustrating lighter side of word power
Here is a video "Change Your Words - Change your Worlds." While this ironically also emphasizes the power of image (visual literacy), it is provides a powerful punch at the end emphasizing how the words we chose to use can make a huge difference. Enjoy - it's worth the time!
So what can we do? Here or some suggestions I give to students and revisit myself.
- Write a draft in a "Word" document. When finished look for red squiggly lines (that point out spelling errors) and green squiggly lines (pointing out grammar and tense errors). Work on getting rid of those lines. Often the word program will give suggestions (especially with the spelling).
- Once you've taken care of the red and green lines (spelling, grammar and formatting), go back and re-read your piece. Read it OUT LOUD. This way you can hear as well as see awkward, incomplete, or over-burdened sentences. IF you have trouble reading the sentence or passage smoothly, your readers will too - so change it!
- Now reread it another time with these guidelines in mind:
- Trim long sentences
- focus on word choices - are they used correctly? Do they convey what you want to convey?
- Do your sentences and paragraphs flow one into the other or do you need a sentence here and there to bridge your thoughts/points?
- Check that names are spelled correctly, check that you are using the appropriate synonym, homophone and tense.
- Take a rest but don't send it yet. Come back after some time and read it over one more time. Read it one final time:
- Does it say exactly what you want it to say?
- Is the message clear and succinct? Will your readers understand the intent, inferences and content?
- If yes, you're ready. If not, rework it a bit.
- Douglas Fredericks and the House of They written by Joe Kelly, illustrated by Ben Roman is about a boy who wants to do so many creative things but "They Say" it can't be done. This is a wonderful book about language and the power of creativity and determination. (Ages 6+)
- Frindle by Andrew Clemens is an awesome book about what makes a word a word. (Ages 6+)
- Many Luscious Lollipops (a vibrantly illustrated kids' book about adjectives and rhyming); A Cache of Jewels (a vibrantly illustrated book about collective nouns); Kites Sail High (all about verbs) ---by Ruth Heller are three of her books about words (ages 5-8)
- For laughs on POOR word choices that could not be retrieved here are some sadly funny political gaffes and "Quayleisms:
- For more laughs emphasizing the power and need of proofreading and editing, here is an awesome video of Taylor Mali's slam poem "The The Impotence of Proof Reading"
- Here is a post on how to "Understand Spelling Errors to Raise Better Writers"
- Here is a with a nice editing checklist
- This is a SUPER handout from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Writing Center on Word Choice. It discusses misused words, jargon, 'loaded language', wordiness, cliches, writing for an academic audience, repetition vs. redundancy, building clear thesis statements, strategies for successful word choice, final editing questions to ask yourself, and it contains additional references.
Thank you all for your visit. Please leave some of your editing tips or word of reflection or kindness in the comments.