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What the Word Really Meant

One of the great losses sustained in the “writing industry” in recent years has been the general quality imparted by good training and regular editing. Social media, the constant pressure of budgets, lower standards and lack of thoughtfulness have all contributed. The result has been headlines, articles, snippets, tweets and more that do a poor job getting the point across. Even worse, the point may be altered from its original intent or the reality with the result that the reader is deliberately or accidentally misinformed.

Let’s start with an obvious example – the exaggeration of so many persons, places and events. Is it not interesting that almost any event is unbelievable, stupendous, incredible these days? The overuse and misuse of such terms tend to numb the reader to the point that the words no longer have real meaning. We know that many things happen and are bombarded with them constantly – how could we possibly believe that they are ALL wonderful, fabulous or terribly meaningful? That’s right, they aren’t.

Another category is the choice of words that suggest something that is not describing the reality of the situation or topic discussed. A common variation is the use of the term “forced” as in how a particular person or group is forced to do something, carrying with it an implication that whatever it is they have no choice and presumably it is not a good thing they have to do. Most of the time, in fact, whatever the “it” they are “forced” to do is, actually represents a choice the actor would prefer not to make but must because of prior choices and probably mistakes. Easy example – a sports team is forced to take a time out because things are not as they planned or expected. They certainly are not forced to take that action as the writer or speaker may say but might choose to take that timeout because they have finally realized they need to change something they chose to do earlier but were mistaken in believing.

Then there is the use of terms designed to create a false sympathy (or its opposite) when describing a situation. Timely favorite – a political party must “brace for” election leaks. If one had behaved in an ethical and transparent manner, there would be nothing to fear. If one must “brace for” exposure of their actions, perhaps they should not have taken some of those actions and then they could sleep at night. Of course, one suspects that most politicians either do not or should not sleep well nights and this year’s events underscore that belief.

The point here is that words used to have clear meanings and we knew (or thought we knew) what a particular headline, story, discussion or the like actually meant. We also tended to believe, foolishly of course, that we were getting the facts unless it was clearly stated that we were getting an opinion. Our ability to process the information is hampered by the misuses described that are now a constant part of our lives.


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