Words About Words
True wisdom is timeless. In his 1932 novel, Journey to the East, Hermann Hesse wrote: “Words do not express thoughts very well; everything becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish.”
Yet we are captive to words. Language – at least the comparative extent of its development and usage – is unique to the human species. We use words because we are able. They can be wonderful, uplifting, glorious. Or, as Hesse notes, they can distort our thoughts, even, I would posit, to the point of danger. All of which says: one should be careful and prudent with the use of his or her words. This is particularly important for professional authors whose words are cast in bronze, so to speak, and available for the whole world to read.
Choosing what to write and how to write it is a demanding task . . . at least if taken seriously. Since what one might wish to communicate is often liable to misinterpretation, an author must strive for clarity of thought followed by words which unmistakably convey that thought. This is a good reason for proofreaders and content editors . . . people who might ask: is this really what you want to say? It is also why the three primary exercises of an author are to revise, revise, and revise.
My first novel was read by two proofreaders (with some content editing), and I personally read it five times after completion . . . once out loud. The fifth and last reading resulted in 270 changes to the manuscript, some technical and others to better convey what I was attempting to say.
The late Robin Williams said: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” That is why authors write. And since we want the world to be a place of justice and peace, we chose our words with great, great care.