The Wonderful World of Words

You find a lot of interesting things on the internet.

Funny cats.  Pictures of some actor with his shirt off.  An ad for a free trial of a weight loss program that magically lets people lose half their body weight overnight by hopping on one foot and eating ham rolls.

Okay, maybe I’ve never seen that last one, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

But aside from cat memes and movie gifs, the internet is also full of people giving their opinion and broadcasting it to the world.  Said posts can range from being intellectually thoughtful and stimulating to so-bad-you-can’t-help-but-cringe-or-laugh.  The internet world is inhabited by both people and trolls, and to help keep the sanity many practice “netiquette”, which includes the following examples:

  1. DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS (unless you want to portray yourself as angry and in need of a hug).
  2. Don’t post private information on the internet because once it’s out there, it’s out there (and some creepy person will undoubtedly steal something from you).
  3. Be nice and courteous.

Most people tend to follow these rules of netiquette.  We understand that if what a person says doesn’t go over well in real-life, chances are it won’t go over well online, either.  Words are powerful, having the ability to build a person up and bring them encouragement and confidence, or tear a person down, making them feel miserable, hopeless, and discouraged.  Many understand that the words we use are our greatest ways to influence the world.

But sometimes the words we use aren’t the only things we need to be careful of.  Sometimes how we use those words can be just as important.

Yesterday I was reading an article in which the author used satire to bring about his opinion.  It was a well-written article and had plenty of “good” words, but the way he wrote it left many readers confused.  Readers debated with themselves and others about what the author truly meant in his article.  Was he being serious?  Why did he sound so angry?  Was he really angry, or just trying to be funny?  What point was he trying to make?  I admit even I was a bit confused at the article, not discovering it was satire until after reading the last paragraph.

It got me thinking to just how important how we phrase our words can be.  Are we conveying a certain emotion or tone?  Will readers be able to understand what we meant when we said X, Y, or Z?  Do our words create confusion or understanding?  Our words may be perfectly spelled and sound great together, but if the story/article/post as a whole doesn’t come together, it might not do much good.

It sort of reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw at a store.  The shirt had two sentences atop of each other: “Let’s eat grandma!” and then “Let’s eat, grandma!” with the catchphrase “Grammar saves lives.”  As silly as the shirt was, it brought about a good point.  How we phrase our words (or in that case, where we place the comma) can make a difference in the meaning of what we’re trying to convey.  Our words may make sense grammatically, but if they’re presented in a way we don’t mean or if they’re misinterpreted by the reader, our words may do us more harm than good.

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