Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Carved in Stone

By Mark W. Danielson

In a time when everything can be posted within seconds, it’s now more important than ever to choose our words wisely.  Cringing at some of the news articles or management comments I see, I realize it’s probably best to write my words like they are carved in stone.  While it is doubtful any of my good words will ever be recognized, I am certain that badly chosen ones will soon come back to haunt me.

When you are passionate about a topic, it’s easy to write with emotion.  In fiction, this is an essential ingredient, but when responding to a Facebook post, editorial, or question from the boss, it may not be advantageous.  Case in point, I frequently see comments that slam the French for being snobbish or weak.  I am neither of French descent or a defender of this country, but I have spent a lot of time there, and for every person that may seem arrogant, I can easily find their equal anywhere in the United States.  In this regard, it’s probably best not to brand a civilization based on a single experience, but rather realize that our own behavior often affects our interaction with others.  We should also realize that not everyone shares our own frame of reference, and that international politics can often slant how people see us.

So how does an author respond to a comment or cause without creating an uproar?  The answer is simple.  Never publish anything right away.  Instead, write it and then sit on it.  This works for any kind of writing, casual or professional.  After it’s fermented for whatever length of time seems appropriate for your situation, then re-read it out loud so you can hear your own words.  By doing so, the chances are good you will find new words that may better express what you were trying to say.  Once you’ve made your changes, then sit on it again.  And before sending anything on, read it aloud again to make sure you are satisfied.  If you have done this, then you can take your lumps as the criticism begins. 

Reputations can be ruined by just a few poorly chosen words.  Such fury is predominant when rivaling political figures spit their venom, but elected officials that are not careful with their words will forever be remembered for their bad choices.  One exception, however, is the word I chose to represent this article.  Infamy. . .   Anyone that has studied history will remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s word to describe the day Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7th, 1941.  That day will forever live in infamy.

Nowadays, few seem to be accountable for any of their actions, so it’s best that authors lead the way in raising the communication bar.  And while we strive to perfect whatever words we use in writing, it’s probably best that we speak like our microphone is on and act like we’re being videotaped.        


Jean Henry Mead said...

Very good advice, Mark. It's also true of book publishing. Put the "finished" copy away for a while, then take it out and read it as though someone else had written it. Edit and polish again. (I need to take my own advice.) :)

Mark W. Danielson said...

Jean, it's always easier to dole out advice than to follow it:) Regardless, the editing never stops.