The Power of Words

I have always written in one form or another because I have a deep love for words and language. I got this from my Mom and I love her for it. I would think that most “bloggers” and writers share a similar joy for being able to express intangible ideas and feelings in written language. It is a unique gift, in that not everyone finds writing to be easy or a joy. Even when writing is a passion, every writer struggles, at times, to turn the exact phrase that captures what they seek to convey to the reader.

“The pen is mightier than the sword” is a phrase coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, from 1839. Although, the same concept can be found in many earlier writings, including Shakespeare who pens a line in Hamlet in 1602 that reads, “… many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.” All these phrases recognize the power of the written word. It recognizes that, although swords (actions) can enforce or change a specific physical line of progression, it is only the written word that can change minds and perceptions.

We singularly give this recognition of substance to the written word. And that should not lessen the abilities of the greatest orators, whose speeches can vilify, praise, or rally people to action. But alas, these orations have the life span of fresh-cut flowers. Quickly their words fade along with the feelings or emotions they exuded. It is only the written word that holds a timeless eloquence. There is permanence to them. They will exist forever just as they were written. And whenever they are read, they will again bring rise to that which the writer hoped to stir in his/her readers.

When what we say is spoken in anger and hurtful, we have the chance to correct this to the listener through the utterance of sincere apologies. We have all had to do this at some point in our lives. The spontaneity of conversation allows our communication to be overwhelmed by feelings or emotions which we have not had time to process. It causes us to say things we don’t really mean. That doesn’t mean people don’t write angry things. But it is more likely that the anger or disdain seen on the page is truly how they feel. And it is far more difficult to correct. Writing takes time, thought, and sometimes effort. With this we have the chance to insure we are writing exactly what we mean.

But the written word also has its limitations. True meaning can be lost in misinterpretation and erroneously perceived context. Since it lacks the intonation of the human voice and the emotive nature of the human face, the reader cannot always be certain of what the writer is trying to impart. I choose the word “impart” over the word “imply”. Implications are indirect expressions and should not abide in the written word. The written word can hold subtleties and nuances, but it must be a direct expression. When you “imply”, you leave your words and the ideas or thoughts that you meant to convey open to the readers own perceptions, prejudices, and understanding.

“With great power comes great responsibility” was penned by Francois-Marie Arouet (aka Voltaire) in 1832. Although this phrase could easily be a modernization of the biblical verse, “To those who much is given much is required” Luke 12:48 circa 30 AD. Either way they present the idea that we, as writers, are responsible for our words. I am a believer that what we express through our thoughts, words, and actions, returns to us. So let us be mindful of what we think, conscious of what we say, and cautious in what we write. These are pages that will stand forever in history and by them we will be measured.

© 2012  Commonsensibly Speaking ~ Brad Osborne

4 Responses to “The Power of Words”
  1. melanie says:

    you lost me in a few places with this one however, the last few sentences are right on!

  2. carpet cleaner says:

    Valuable information. Lucky me I found your site by accident, and I am shocked why this accident did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

Check out what others are saying...
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  2. […] Judgement, intolerance, guilt, and exclusion are but a few. Although I cover this topic more in “The Power of Words”, it was worth repeating. But on to the real […]

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