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Mistreatment of the Written Word Has Gone Too Far
Consider the absurdity of this:
Millennia pass as humans pursue better communication. We not only evolve from grunts and points to a near-endless combination of mouth sounds, but also discover means to give an agreed-upon alphabet to those mouth sounds, and also record those mouth sounds for further distribution — on stone tablets, then wax tablets, then papyrus scrolls, then felled trees, then word processors — and achieve an almost-total global distribution of language.
Then, someone on Twitter lazily proclaims:
“99% of people don’t work hard enough.”
No elaboration is offered.
No extended explanation.
Members of The Hustle Gang aren’t the only sinners, of course. They’re just easy to pick on.
The broader concern is every person who possesses ample intelligence, thoughtful spirit, and pure intent yet splatters the most convenient word on a page without considering whether it is the best word.
Many quotes come to mind at this point but, annoyingly, the most accurate one has been used so often it is borderline trite:
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” - Mark Twain
When your average writer remembers this, they rush to thesaurus dot com.
A horrible choice.
Even the television show FRIENDS (whose characters don’t exactly put intelligent, rational thinking in the best light) knew the problem of the Thesaurus.
In season 10, Joey (the dumb one) is composing a letter of recommendation to an adoption agency. His letter will determine whether or not Chandler and Monica (the sarcastic one and the OCD one) get approved for a child.
“I want it to sound smart,” Joey says, woefully slumping over his laptop.
Ross (the “smart” one) shows Joey the Thesaurus on his computer and voila! Vocabulary problem solved!
Except it isn’t, because Joey does what all ignorant writers do: carelessly inserts words without once considering what they really mean (“Why did you sign this ‘Baby Kangaroo’ Tribianni?”)
And this is the real issue here: achieving your true meaning through careful word selection.
If you want to describe where a person lives, do you use the word “house,” “cabin,” “hut,” “apartment,” “hotel,” “garret,” “bungalow,” “residence,” or “home?” 9 different words. 9 different meanings. Each carrying ancient history and modern cultural baggage.
Careful word selection. Not cautious. Fear of using the wrong word is almost as destructive as indifference to the right ones.
Care-full. Full of care.recently said: “I’ve been thinking a lot about the word vanilla lately.” That’s careful word selection at work.
Careful word selection does not mean you know all of the 170,000+ words in the English language.
It means you take the responsibility accompanying this awesome power and ask yourself, with your current knowledge and vocabulary, is this the best word I could possibly use right now?
Any less is an insult to the written word.