Choose your words with care

Words are powerful things.  Just think for a moment about the impact other people’s words have had on you, for good or ill - or what you might read into the words that someone else has written, however quickly and casually they might have been penned.

This matters as much if not more when we’re writing on the net - the immediacy of the medium can lull us into a false sense of security that we can be casual or unthinking with our choice of words, forgetting that the traces of those words linger - and who knows where they may end up being read.

Some thoughts to bear in mind when you’re writing:

1. Be conversational yes, but don’t use that as an excuse for sloppy or vacuous writing, or writing that is ‘loosey-goosey’ (what a great word - thank you Dawud!)

2. Add some variety into what you’re writing.  You might be interested to learn that the top 15 words used by bloggers are: blogger, blog, stupid, me, myself, my, oh, yeah, ok, post, stuff, lovely, update, nice, sh*t

3. That doesn’t mean going crazy with a thesaurus - unless you really know what you’re doing you can end up with the wrong word - and in any event you’re likely to baffle readers with a complex word when an ordinary one would do.  I like Terence Denman’s advice: “A thesaurus is full of treasures: the treasures of the English language.  But, as with all treasures, spend it wisely.  In other words, don’t use a £5 word when a 5p one will do.”

4. Use words that are positive.  Lynn Gaertner-Johnston at Business Writing reminds us that

if we want our readers to have positive experiences when they read our documents, we have to do more than just leave out the negative words. It’s not enough to simply strike complain, you forgot, you failed, cannot, won’t, and “company policy.” Deleting negatives can’t create a positive feeling. Positive feelings come from words with positive associations.

5. To make a really positive, powerful impact: be specific.  What specifically did you like about something - someone’s work, something that happened to you, an idea you had, something you learned or read?  The more specific you are the more the powerful your connection will be (oh and the bigger the serotonin hit will be too!)

Which just goes to show - it’s worth spending those extra few minutes to choose your words with care…