Monday, December 7, 2009

Word Power by Shayna Fehr

Words are strong force that anyone can use. Their power lies in their ability to change minds, inspire, provoke emotion, enable us to communicate, and even deeply wound others. Words can be written, spoken, or signed. They are multicultural, they are used every minute of everyday, and they powerful. One word can crush the soul, or lift it to greater heights; when we use words we need to remember this principle.

Cassiby has a great point, “Not the definition of a word, but what the speaker or writer is actually referring to.” Words are only the vehicle a person uses to evoke a particular feeling inside his/her listener or reader. Therefore, as writers we need to take extra care when dealing with words. One word can have several meanings, and might even offend our readers. It is up to us to pick the right one in the context we need it to work. In “Bias-Free Language: Some Guidelines,” Maggio touches on this, “So if we have to think a little, if we have to search for the unbiased word, the inclusive phrase, it is not any more effort than we expend on proper grammar, spelling, and style.” Maggio’s mission to make language bias-free; Kakutani’s arguments are very strong for leaving language the way it is. He says, “Calling the homeless ‘the underhoused’ doesn’t give them a place to live; calling the poor ‘the economically marginalized’ doesn’t help them pay the bills. Rather, by playing down their plight, such language might even make it easier to shrug off the seriousness of their situation.”

Perhaps the lesson to be learned by both writers is to be careful of the language/words you use. Be aware of your audience by using the type of language they would like to read. Honour the words you use, by choosing the write ones.


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  2. Careful use of the language is important in protecting the feelings of others who would be sensitive to phrases of a particular nature. It is an interesting point that downgrading offensive terms such as 'homeless people' will take away from the seriousness of their plight.

    There is much to think about with this post