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Writing Life: The Harmful Effect of Words

© 2008, 2013  by Raymond Alexander Kukkee

[caption id="attachment_119" align="aligncenter" width="300"]another story on paper... Harmful words waiting to be written?[/caption]

"The power of language is highly variable, even unpredictable "

In the course of your writing career, have you ever used the wrong word by mistake, a sharp criticism —a foul invective,  the 'f'-word, poorly expressed, unnecessarily  uncivilized language,  and perhaps too late concluded a far better, less damaging choice of words could have been made? Welcome to the harmful effect of words.

As writers, our use of words is fraught with traps and treasures. Words from the heart, off the tip of the tongue, or withdrawn from deep in the mind can do many things, both positive and negative, at times unexpectedly.

From any perspective, words used effectively can delight, make the human spirit soar to ultimate happiness, joyand enlightenment, or reduce an already barren, downtrodden human being to extreme depths of despair and helplessness and ultimately, destruction. Words may also initiate,cultivate  and exacerbate the darkest, intractable hate.

 Harmful effect of words: the unpredictable

The instantaneous power of language is highly variable, even unpredictable.  Words by themselves may be completely innocent, innocuous, or in the other extreme, wickedly pointed, savagely powerful and dangerous.  Unknown to us, the derivative effects of words may be even more so.  Caution is required. Why? Interpretation, although normally  'routine', can result in the unexpected.

The listener, the reader, the condition of the  recipient mind —may be unknown, undefined,  and unpredictable;  in that respect, words are virtually unlimited in interpretation.  We do not know what thought, feelings or actions words taken out of context may precipitate.   Eloquent, specific and careful, even gentle use of words —both written and spoken is clearly a worthy goal if the potentially harmful effect of words is to be avoided.

Writers may benefit greatly from thoughtful word usage, or equally, find themselves subject to severe criticism for using words that inadvertently result in pain. Even using gentle, ordinary words without malicious intent may, in interpretation, appear to describe traits, savage the character of individuals, alienate, or colour an individual group with an indelible stain.  Inadvertent or careless reference to  ageism, gender,  race, or a miscellaneous classes of people in an  indiscriminate manner can be damaging,  hurtful —and unnecessarily so.

Used with offensive context,  indeterminate interpretation of simple truth as criticism, the wrong words can wreak havoc unintentionally, invoking stress,  negativity, and at times, unwanted backlash, warranted or not. The wrong words can dethrone kings and destroy careers. At times it may be difficult to avoid foul language and four-letter words, achieve a reasonable balance in wordsmithing without succumbing to the stupidity of excessive "political correctness gone mad,  especially where topics and issues invoke outrage, bloodlust and passion. As writers, thinking thrice before writing once can certainly —at least at times, be extremely helpful in avoiding the potentially explosive and harmful effect of words.

We try, but may not always succeed. Should we feel bad about it if we fail upon occasion?  No. Yes. Maybe.  Perhaps all we can ask of ourselves as we relay a blistering message important to our hearts and the well-being of humanity  is to be aware, and ultimately do our best in applying pen to paper.  Let's have coffee and think about it.

Is that Incoming I hear?

Posted in Business, Ethics, Life, Publishing, Reflections, The Human Mind, Writing Life | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments