As writers, we must choose our words carefully. Not ever reader will comprehend our words in the same way. This is true for writers of every genre, from short pieces of flash fiction contained in a few hundred words or less (Ernest Hemingway’s six-word, heart-wrenching story comes to mind) to multi-volume epic tales spanning hundreds of thousands of words or more (looking at you George R.R. Martin), and every word count in between.
Words hold weight and meaning. Words matter. Regardless of how careful we are when choosing (and using) our words, they can be misconstrued. Even the word “matter” has quite a few definitions. I’ve listed them below along with my interpretations of each.
- a physical substance – Any physical substance, living or otherwise, is matter. You, dear reader, not only matter. You are matter.
- written or printed material – Libraries are full of both matter and things that matter.
- a topic of conversation – “Choosing Our Words” counts as matter, in this case.
- a thing that evokes emotion or feeling – Welcome to what I see as the broadest definition of matter. In this case, matter could mean anything from the above examples to civic movements to music and lyrics to nature and just about anything else.
Why? Because what evokes emotion or feeling is subjective and based on the point of view of the receiver. Where you might see a beautiful sunrise, I could see a terrible reminder that I’ve lost precious moments of sleep by waking up before my alarm went off.
- the reason for a problem – Sometimes people confuse matter with the term problem in this instance. “What’s the matter?” is not always synonymous with “What’s the problem?” The matter is the reason for the problem.
- to have significance or importance – Words matter because they are essential for communicating. That’s pretty significant!
- wound secretions – In this final case, “matter” is meant as a medical term. It’s often described as fluid matter. That thick, yellowy gunk seen in conjunction with an infection. Also known as, how writers feel when receiving a one-star review.
Due to the weight that words carry, they are more valuable than any precious gemstone and sharper than the deadliest of blades. People who throw their weight around often use words as their choice of weapon. Can we blame them?
When someone makes us a promise, we take them at their word, especially if their word is their bond. The latest cell phones can snap an image as crystal clear as a high-end digital camera, and that picture paints a thousand words. The words one person uses can cause someone else to be at a loss for words, and people have a lot of opinions about four-letter words. Just ask them. Someone who puts their foot in their mouth tends to eat their words. Now that’s food for thought!
The next time someone tells you that words don’t matter, remind them that according to an article in the Washington Post, Inuit people have 50 words alone for the English word snow.