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One word tells a thousand pictures

This article was posted on Thursday, July 31st, 2014

To all writers; words are weapons of mass construction (the opposite is also true).

If you’re reading this, I assume you understand English (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). I also assume you can read.

Amazed by my powers of assumption? Allow me to impress you further.

Because you’re perusing this blog I assume that when the Beatles parted ways, your parents, although perhaps coming together, had not yet fertilised the fact; and that it was probably your parents or, God forbid, your grandparents who were tripping in the Woodstock-induced free mud and sludge of 60s and 70s love.

I also assume that to you, telephones, typewriters and telex machines are as Jurassic as T-Rex (apologies to Marc Bolin, may he rest in peace), while you associate bytes and Blackberries with usernames and passwords rather than culinary delights.

In a word, I assume that you are young.

And although you were not yet born when Jimmy Hendrix kissed the sky, or people used Tippex, or when Armstrong (not Louis) took a giant step for mankind, you can see it all; because somewhere, sometime, you read about it. In an nth of a second, faster than a mongoose cobra-strike, my words have burst open doors in your mind and a thousand pictures have appeared.

That, dear comrades in penmanship (or in 21st century parlance; keyboardship), is the crux of this ramble.

The quality of the light you shine into the minds of your readers depends on one thing and one thing only; how you arrange the 26 letters of the alphabet into words and sentences that make your reader SEE what you’re writing about. Your words are a glow that warms, a laser that harms, a fire that enlightens or a flame that ignites.

You have the power to make grown men cry and small children laugh. You can make your readers see with clarity they never believed possible, or you can cloud their vision with your confusion.

I’ve been writing in one form or another (with equal amounts of frustration and satisfaction) for 30 –plus years. A few things I’ve discovered:

  • The paragraph you feel most precious about; cut.
  • What you say in 300 words, you’ll say better in 150.
  • Discover a new word; every day.
  • Challenge yourself. For example, write a full page using words with only two syllables.
  • Be honest.

As a writer, your words are weapons of mass construction, or the exact opposite. It all depends on what you want your readers to see.

The choice, and the responsibility, is yours.

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