Words matter

A few authors have told me they’re struggling to keep up with all the information I’m sharing here, so I’m going to slow it down this week.

Let’s get inspirational and aspirational instead of instructional.

The topic is how much words matter.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne said, “Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”

Do words matter when you write?

This Hawthorne quote represents what I aspire to as a writer. I want to be someone who knows how to combine words in a way that makes a difference.

Whether it’s on this blog, or in the book I’m writing, or in articles I write for clients, I work to combine words in a way that communicates clearly, effectively, and accurately.

Sometimes I write to move people. More often than not, though, I write to inform or to teach or to enlighten. If I don’t use my words effectively, I won’t achieve my goal.

What about you? What do you want your words to do?

Here’s to all of you unleashing the power of words in your books.

What is your goal as you put words together for your book? Please share it in a comment so you inspire the rest of us.

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  1. Words are important, and the choice of words that I use in my writing can strengthen or weaken the meaning. Spelling and grammar errors, unless it’s intentional (as in fictional dialog) can harm my brand. We’re writers and words are our tools – we need to use them correctly.

    l8r (just kidding).

    1. Thanks, Richard. You are so right. So I guess I should point out that your last name is spelled wrong in this comment, eh?

      ; – )


  2. I try to use words that connect the reader to a character, words that evoke an image in a reader’s mind or that sympathetically vibrate with her experience. I try to be as spare as Jane Austen and as inventive as e.e. cummings (“trees greenly leaping”). I would die happy if I could write one (1!) metaphor as devastatingly to-the-point as Mark Twain. These wordsmiths set the bar for me, and keep me awake at night, re-writing in my head.

    1. K.M., your comment inspires me! I think that for some, the ability to write like Twain is a gift, while others have to work hard at it. I also study how others put words together and use those writers as role models. I’m always working to get better at it — it’s a process that will never end.


    1. Thank you! It’s loosestrife.

      I’m writing a short nonfiction e-book on a very specific topic for authors. I’m not far enough along to share the topic yet, but thank you for asking. What’s your current work in progress?


      1. My current project, when I get to it, is another historical fiction novel. This one explores the theme of mercy and reconciliation in the Canal Era. Its working title, Whippletree, is an old word for dogwood trees, as well as a device used by teams of horses, ‘teams’ being the operative word. Two of its characters were born into a previous book, Passage Oak. I liked them too much to let them go. They migrate from Cornwall to America (back then it was SO possible!) to work on the canals of New York State and New Jersey. You probably realize, living where you do, Sandra, what an interesting time it history that was.

        1. It sounds really interesting! I find Erie Canal-era history fascinating. When I was in college, Papa’s turn-of-the-century and later scrapbooks provided research material for a term paper on the Erie-then-Barge Canal. I have several of his scrapbooks now and took them to Bev Fink’s one evening to flip through with Louis and Audrey. They found clippings about their elementary school accomplishments! It was pretty cool.


          1. That scrapbook sounds interesting! Anything in there I could use? Mama Beckwith’s family, the Evanses, were boat builders, apparently, though that is all I know about them. I assume they built barges around Oneida Lake. One day we should have a canalside meet-up.

          2. I can check. What year range are you writing about? I didn’t know that about Mama’s family! Hey, sign me up for a meet-up the next time you’re back!


          3. The story takes place from 1820 to 1830, much earlier than the years the scrapbook covers, I’m sure. I am looking for any facts, alternative or otherwise, or interesting yarns or tidbits or love triangles or skirmishes or shoot-outs. You know, all of life’s usual succulent delicacies.

            I’ll definitely treat you to a cuppa or glassa when I’m next in Pittsford, Sandra! And of course, if you venture into NJ, drop me a line.

          4. The scrapbooks start with the late 19th century, I think — too late for you. And I’ll take you up on that offer — either here or there!


  3. That’s a great quote, thank you for posting. I really love the term wordsmith. Perfect for us as we forge words into images. I hope my words give readers whatever they need that day, an adventure, a laugh, a romantic moment.

  4. I want my words to inspire my young readers to be happy, content and successful human beings. In fact, one of the chapters in my book discusses how young adults must choose their words wisely because once they’re unleashed, there’s no reigning them back in. Words are so powerful, for both good and bad. Being a new author helps me contribute to making words create magic and this makes me so happy!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Teaching young readers the power of words is essential in today’s social media world. Once it’s out there, there’s no going back. I think many adults are just learning this, too. We all need to rein ourselves in once in awhile!


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