Words. They can hurt, appease, comfort, inspire, cajole, tickle, sadden and delight us.Finding the perfect word can sometimes be a daunting undertaking. The more we search for that gem, the more frustrated we can become when we can’t find it.
An important thing for a writer to remember is that words connote as well as denote. Once we think we’ve found the word we want to use, we must remember to check to be sure that, in using this word, we aren’t conveying any unwanted subtext.
For example, some years ago a little girl about six years old or so was telling me about being in her church’s Christmas play. She said she was one of the shepherds and her brother was one of the WISE GUYS.
While it is true that the words “guys” and “men” are quite interchangeable in the English language, a “wise man” and a “wise guy” connote two completely different types of people. I don’t think any of the Magi would appreciate being likened to a character like Eddie Haskel of “Leave it to Beaver” fame.
On another occasion, when I was a teacher, one of my students claimed in a test answer that a person could receive a traffic citation for “wreckless” driving.
I was amused by her answer, and began to visualize being stopped by a police officer for “wreckless” driving. Here is roughly what I envisioned the officer saying to me: “Mrs. Shaff, I’m sorry, but you haven’t had a car accident for years and years now. I’m afraid I’m going have to issue you a ticket for ‘wreckless’ driving.”
As a writer I’m always looking for the perfect word for a title, a phrase or a sentence. As a reader, I notice when a writer has used the perfect word to illustrate an idea, a scene or a characteristic of one of her characters.
The use of perfect words can make all the difference between a paragraph being mediocre and being great.
But words aren’t important only to writers and readers. Words have power for all of us. We can make or break a person’s day with words. Those of us networking on the Internet know this better than anyone, don’t we? We can receive notes from people we’ve never met wishing us a great week, a happy birthday or congratulations on a recent accomplishment we’ve achieved. Those words can cheer us up and inspire us to not only feel better but to pass along our good feelings to others. What could be better than that?
Here’s hoping that all who read my words today have a week filled with love and happiness because each and every one of us deserves to be loved and happy.
Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author