Words: Meaning and Intention

While driving to work the other morning, I saw a hand-made sign on the corner of the intersection.

CHEAP HOUSE FOR SALE.

Being a writer, my brain started thinking, started processing a response to a meaningless sign that had no personal bearing on me. It struck me that I would NOT want to even see that house. Not that I’m in the market. But even if I were, that sign did not properly attract me. It had the opposite effect of dissuading me. The house was defined. It was CHEAP. Whatever condition it might have been in, I was never going to learn because it had been defined by the seller as being CHEAP.

Now, I am going a bit on with this but it brought to bear the power of words and word choice. In acting (or in call center customer service) tone and inflection are often more significant than word choice when it comes to presentation. As words, we have only the word and its direct (and/or indirect) placement with other words, in concert to form a sentence, sentences to form paragraphs, etc. Word choice is not just a phrase to be bandied about in writing guides.

There are countless examples where a word used in a generic sense adds nothing to the mood or tone or setting, but an alternate word with a sense of character evokes more for the reader and carries them forth to the next sequence of words.

I was called out recently by a successfully published author in this blog due to word choice. Perhaps I was more lax than I am in my own writing because I feel that this venue is more conversational and evocative of commentary more than criticism. Nevertheless, as a writer I should not allow the venue to alter what it is that I do (and should do) with words.

Before i got to work that morning, I realized that the seller could have used the exact same four words but in a different sequence (and with an added bit of punctuation) to infer a different meaning.

HOUSE FOR SALE, CHEAP

I would have assumed that, in this economy where job loss has been prevalent, the seller was in desperate need of capital and had to get out from under a financial burden. Instead, I will only have to consider a dirty, ugly, rundown, CHEAP house.

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2 Comments

  1. lawrenceez said,

    January 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Good post. I think words conjure up images, but it’s easy to let the wrong word in.

    Hope you are well,

    Lawrence

    Like

    • tikiman1962 said,

      January 25, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      Then again, with my big mouth, sometimes it’s about getting the wrong word OUT.
      Thank you just the same.

      Like


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