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Words About Words
Reflections on the Character of Written Communication
(This is the second in a series of essays on the subject
of better writing as a versatile means for communicating through
a more effective use of words.)
Writing is said to be the second means to communicate. Speaking
is first because it can be learned adequately by listening to
others. Comprehensible writing, however, is a taught skill. And
while almost anyone is capable of expressing thoughts with a
basic knowledge of writing, relatively few take the time and
expend the persistence necessary to achieve the goal of using
better expression. Why strive for such an objective?
The reasons are apparent in our everyday lives. To develop
motivation for responding to an offer, to clearly explain how
something works, or to describe an event in a compelling mannerall
these actions call for something beyond familiarity with the
subject. Success often is easier to achieve whenever these intentions
are put forth in specific, more persuasive, or more dramatic
A familiar saying that claims a picture is worth a thousand
words is most apt when dealing with the physical characteristics
of an object or a landscape or even a person. But wordswell-chosen
wordsare what reveal the unseen properties, the surrounding
relationships, and the feelings relating to that particular visualization.
To do this effectively requires the writer to develop a rich
vocabulary and mastery of complexities of the grammar which makes
vocabulary function well.
Professional writers and editors---whether working on content
for a feature article, a news story, a promotion piece, an instruction
manual, or a legal document---all tread similar paths to reach
viable results. They strive to create expressions that have clarity
in establishing vivid mental images, or molding sympathetic feelings,
or in defining terms and conditions with exactness. In so doing,
they weave words together to create patterns of thought that
are often remarkable and seldom less than suitable.
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