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5 Reasons To Take Care Of Your Words

This week’s podcast is a contribution to the writing competition being run by Brad Shorr at Word Sell Inc. The challenge is to write a post that’s inspired by this cartoon:

Now I can see lots of different directions this could have taken me (and you if you decide to take part) but I’m blog-backlogged as usual so decided to combine it with this week’s podcast, and looked for 5 things I could talk about in under 5 minutes. The result was:

5 Reasons To Take Care Of Your Words

A quick reminder (4 mins 43 secs) of the reasons why our words make a difference, and why we need to take good care of them. It’s because our words:

  • lead to actions in the real world - people act on them, respond, make decisions, feel differently
  • can be read in many ways - but the responsibility lies with us, as the communicators, to explain what we mean (based on the principle that the meaning of the communication is the response you get)
  • leave a mark - you can erase things, wipe a slate clean, but the words leave their impact (and on the internet they don’t go away)
  • have energy - which means we need to make choices about how we use our word power, to think about the kind of difference we want to make
  • connect - it’s easy to think words don’t matter when there are so many words out there, but if we choose carefully we can add value with words written to connect, to thank, to praise, encourage, share, teach, demonstrate friendship and support

What other reasons can you think of that mean we should take good care with our words?

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  1. amypalko says:

    I think you make some great points here, Joanna. I particularly agree that the words that we publish on the internet are often hastily written but have a permanency that is, perhaps, ultimately unappreciated. I try with my internet writing to be as careful as I can, but inevitably some errors which affect meaning sneak in. I suppose it’s impossible to attain perfection, but we can but strive towards it :-)

  2. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Amy, I don’t think that can be avoided in the real world, especially given the speed we communicate at just now.

    All we can do is take responsibility for fixing things if we can see that someone has taken something a different way, and focus on our positive intention.

    I really believe a positive intention will keep us right most of the time. It’s also more useful than trying to attain perfection, which is impossible! And perfectionism can get in the way of the intention to… share, inspire, encourage, connect and stop us writing anything at all :-)


  3. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Joanna - interesting question. I think that words are like a picture of us online, because we can’t be seen. So we have to be careful of the words we choose, as people will form an impression of us based on what we write.

  4. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Cath, I think you’re right. That might be a picture, or an impression of someone’s voice, or a ‘feeling’ we get about someone - could we do business with them? trust them? - but it’s often vivid.

    I’m frequently surprised when people say to me ‘oh but writing skills don’t matter any more because we’re all just communicating online…’ It’s as if they’ve discounted the lasting impact of their words - or the fact that in many places the words will stay there forever, as a permanent record.

    More web literacy needed I think!


  5. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, this was so thought provoking. I have never forgotten an assignment an English teacher has us do in class. We were to write the instructions for making a peanut butter& jelly sandwich for someone who was from another country. I remember the impact of being clear in your writing and how simple concepts can be perceived differently. Admittedly I too fail at this task at times. You make really good points and as always have helped me to seek ways to improve. Thank you Joanna! 5 ideas in under 5 minutes that will keep on giving for many years to come. ;-)


  6. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Karen, your example makes me smile.

    Peanut butter & jelly translates into something totally bizarre in the UK!

    Another reminder that we need to take good care with our words. We might *think* they mean the same to someone else - but depending on the context might be read another way entirely.

    Thanks for stopping by on your day off :-)


  7. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, finally had a chance to listen to your podcast. Your first point about words leading to action is an idea near and dear to my heart. As a matter of fact, my company’s tagline is “It’s all about action”, precisely for the reason you give. In business, clear, connecting words leads to profitable actions, while fuzzy, disconnected words lead to unprofitable ones. That’s the problem for our gas station owner … or should I call it petrol? :)

    Thanks for joining in my contest!

  8. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Brad, yes you couldn’t wash a car with our “gas”!

    I think perhaps we discount the power of our words to lead to actions in the real world. In any event we should be willing to take responsibility for the consequences - the results we want, and fixing things if it goes the other way.

    Your cartoon and challenge really got me (and others I can see!) thinking about how we clarify our message, and thanks for the opportunity to take part.

    Now I just need to win the iPod!


  9. Jeanne Dininni says:


    Enjoyed your contest post/podcast very much! Great points-and very insightfully expressed!

    Excellent entry!

  10. Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Thanks Jeanne

    It was a fun competition - got us all thinking :-)