Chances are that your reaction to the above "quote" is something along the lines of, "No, no, no! You're wrong, wrong, wrong!" And, of course, you would be right. Because Lincoln was not only a great leader, he was a great writer. So instead of beginning his Gettysburg Address with a cold, lifeless number, he opens on a prayerful note with a turn of phrase adapted from the 90th Psalm of the King James Bible: "Four score and seven."
Clearly, Lincoln knew the difference between the almost-right word—and, the right word. A distinction famously defined by Mark Twain some 25 years later as "the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."
With that thought in mind, in today's article I'm going to offer you a few choice words on word choice to help you get more of the right words into your communications. And, make your writing more effective.
Let's start by looking at the sports section of my local daily, The Columbus Dispatch. In a recent story, AP reporter Tim Reynolds describes Dick Vitale's reaction to being voted into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame. Vitale, writes Reynolds, "admitted he 'cried like a baby' upon learning he was induced."
Now, maybe Vitale's use of the word "baby" clouded the writer's thinking. Because induced is so not the right word choice.
Which leads us to today's big (but hardly revolutionary) idea: For more effective word choice, think harder about the words you choose.
For example, though it's obvious that Mr. Reynolds made the wrong choice, what about the people who penned these lines?
- This is literally the equivalent of Microsoft coming to your house and locking a CD in your car CD player.
- More CIOs are disinterested in Linux.
- Given the enormity of the job, it's no wonder the men who built the railroad seem like giants to some of us today.
- WasteWise has collected the following environmental factoids to help you understand the impacts of waste prevention and recycling. (From the Web site of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency)
How many of these people made the wrong word choice? How many made the right choice? Actually, those are trick questions. Because in each instance the highlighted word is used incorrectly.