Monday, March 24, 2014

The Power of a Word

Lately, I’ve been thinking about words.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been so focused on my query and trying to make every single word exactly right. 

As a writer, I have to remember that each word can have a power that even I may not realize.  No matter who we are, there’s always going to be specific words that have a personal meaning and bring up memories or opinions. 

As a nurse, there’s one specific words that I absolutely never want to hear.  It’s probably not the one that you would think.  In nursing, the worst word you can use is “quiet.”  I don’t like to believe that we’re a superstitious lot, but I’ve experienced firsthand the power of that one single word.  I remember the nights when I get report and the nurse before me tells me: “Everything was really quiet today.”  That’s when I know that my night is going to be miserable.  And it always is.

Even the way a word is used can affect a person.   Think about the term ‘retard’.  I have heard some people who use it as a joke or a putdown and don’t realize how personal and offensive it can be.  But if they were to understand what it really means, what it can do to those who really struggle with prejudice due to the use of that word. 

Or think about the power of the words: "I have a dream."  Do you know who said it?  What does it make you think of?  There is power behind that phrase, and Martin Luther King Jr. knew it.

As I was working on my query, I had the phrase “do something.”  As I was revising, I changed it to “act”.  Just changing a phrase into one single verb, I found that the entire sentence became much stronger.  While editing and revising, it’s important to pay attention to every single word and the power that they bring to the sentence and the story. 

What words have a specific meanings for you?