Question: The Best Things in Life are……? [fill in the blank].
Clue: Most adult women use on average 20,000 per day and adult men about 7,000 per day. What are they?
So, the big question is – are the best things in life words?
Whether man or woman, we all use so many of them all the time, surely the answer is ‘yes’ already.
Whether you agree with this or not, words are a powerful tool. Sometimes we find exactly the right words to express what we mean. Other times we draw a blank. When we do get it right, a few kind words can boost someone’s day, build rapport, or create a lasting friendship. Words can be used to generate discussion and debate, and resolve problems. They can paint pictures of other worlds without the need for a canvas or a camera. Open any page of Michael Palin’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ and the words transport us to another landscape, another shore, another climate, another moment in time:
“All is pretty quiet aboard the Al Shama this morning, the crew lie curled up on various parts of the deck… A small rattan mat of many colours is produced for us, and our breakfast of omelette, chapati, jam and fresh oranges laid out on it…. As we eat, the sea around us turns leaden and heavy. We’re passing through the thick, viscous smear of an oil slick… It is so obscene it silences us all.”
With just a few words, a few black marks on a page, we can begin to understand not only what is delivered to Palin’s five senses but also how he and the crew operate around each other and what their reactions are to the damage to the environment around them. Talented writers are gifted in this way of providing exactly the right words in the right order for the benefit of the reader. Apart from informing and describing, words can also hold the power to influence. Most of us can recall from memory great writers and orators throughout history that have had an impact on us as individuals. Many will have heard of the Martin Luther King “I have a dream…” speech, and will be able to identify the words “Never was so much owed by so many to so few” as those of Winston Churchill. Of course we all experience some of life’s most memorable moments powered by words:
- a love note / a valentine
- a proposal
- the first words of a little one
- choosing from the menu of your favourite restaurant
- travel documents for your holiday of a lifetime
- a competition result
- an election announcement
- confirmation of a job offer
- break-through news
- a critical work contract
Whatever the moment, one thing ties them all together, words. Without them we would not have the means to be so very specific about areas in our life: Love, relationships, family, work, school, science, maths, construction, engineering, manufacturing, architecture, law, medicine, health and wellbeing. Words allow us to connect with each other on an intelligent level and distinguish (wo)man as the paragon of the animal kingdom. Words provide education, knowledge and learning and allow the passing on of information.
The ‘right’ words allow us to be understood as an individual and prevent being misunderstood. Here’s a scary but awesome thought about the power of words and communication: In 200 years’ time there will be no one left on the planet that is here now, however the population of the world will know everything that we know now… and more. And that’s down to communication and the passing on of knowledge, intrinsic to educating the next generation. It’s an incredible thought what amazing tools we have at our fingertips these days to search online using just a few key words; and often with predictive text the computer knows exactly what our next words are before we even type them. The world becomes smaller and more accessible for more people without even leaving their own homes, just by entering a few words on Google, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. The power to share your message online and in printed format opens up endless possibilities for businesses to flourish.
Whatever your view of words, one thing we can agree on is that there would be no double chocolate cupcake recipes without words, no poetry, theatre or drama. Our world would be silent. No caroling, no voice, no song. Here’s hoping your year ahead is full of the right words, whatever they might be for you. If you can’t find those words my best advice is to hire an expert for a little guidance. There are lots of good freelance copywriters out there who are head over heels in love with words and who are itching to write just for you.