Words carry more than information. The words you choose change the texture, the flavor of the information. They change the way readers view the world.
For instance, my public speaking students frequently choose “Legalization of Marijuana” as a topic. (The fact that they have been choosing this topic for over 30 years says something about our nation, but that’s for another article.) The audience of college students has probably heard this discussed dozens of times in various settings. So I suggest instead they discuss “Relegalization of Marijuana.” That often makes audiences cock their heads, the way a dog looks at a ceiling fan. That recasting of the topic can completely change the way the speaker approaches the topic and the way the audience hears it. Continue reading “The texture of words”
Mark Twain once said in a letter to George Bainton, in 1888, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
As we’ve said here numerous times, it’s not what happens to you but what you think about what happens to you that determines your experience. The different flavors of words shapes the way we think about our world, and therefore shapes our experience.
If you have studied communication much at all, I’ll bet you’ve been exposed to a common set of figures: only 7 percent of the meaning that comes from an interaction comes from the words exchanged. 38 percent comes from the voice, and 55 percent from the body language. You should have a source for information like that, of course, and there has always been a good one: Dr. Albert Mehrabian.
I even cited those figures in a textbook I co-authored, since the figures appeared in the textbook I used as a student way back when Aristotle was in knee pants. They’re great figures that help speakers make a point about delivery.