More than numbers, more than facts, more than merit. The 2016 US election was won through speeches, shouts, tweets, jokes, sound bytes, hashtags, insults, words, words, and endless words.
Over the past few months I’ve been trying to anchor my business and body of work in something substantial. I’ve been trying to determine my impact; struggling to define the bigger conversation to which my work contributes.
It is that words rule. The words we choose are important. Inarguably they have great power. We are evolved animals graced with the gift of language. And as such, I believe there are Word Rules it is incumbent on us to follow.
- Be precise. Say what you need to say clearly. There is a huge lexicon from which we can draw. The larger your vocabulary, the more powerfully you can express yourself. Don’t leave it up to interpretation. Don’t even leave it up to context. Be precise, from beginning to end.
- Be intelligible. Learn what words mean, how to string them together, and how to construct an argument. Words have definitions and grammar has rules, not to be restrictive but so we can share what’s in our heads with other people through mutually-understood constructs.
- Be intentional. We have language to express ideas, to share our thoughts with other people. Sounds that aren’t language are either music, or noise. Think first, about what you want to say, and why you need to say it.
- Be careful. Take care with your words. Recognize their power. Weigh the effect of each word, because every word you choose has an effect.
- Be artful. I’m taking a stand to raise the level of discourse, anywhere and everywhere it appears. A facebook post. An email. A note in a lunch bag. A note to a teacher. A shopping list, dammit, with endearing abbreviations and in-jokes and surprise declarations of affection. There is always the opportunity to add beauty to the overwhelming stream of communication we undertake each day. Language gives us the power to connect with kindness, share deep feelings, validate, commiserate, elicit a laugh, celebrate what we have in common.
I’ll leave it to others to pursue truth, justice, progress and healing. I simply offer, to the very best of my ability, the most precise, intelligible, intentional, careful and artful word-craft I can in support of their efforts.