Words can be a beautiful thing if used correctly. The power of words can have a huge effect. Photo by @wordarchive
Corona del Mar High School

Precision of language

Language is the most powerful human tool. It is a tricky concept with 450,000 plus words in the English vocabulary. Over 116 homophones, these words that sound the same can have two completely different meanings.

Words can express anything, from events to emotions to thoughts. However, it is easy to misuse words through miscommunication and mixed intentions. These incorrect words and meanings can make or break a sentence. Precision of language is essential to creating an expression that matches the intention of the writer.

When a student is writing something for school, they aspire to sound intelligent and creative by using advanced vocabulary instead of smaller, simpler words. Rather than writing “the turn of events saddened the girl” they write “the turn of events depressed the girl.” This change, while small, has an enormous impact on the meaning of the sentence. There is a major difference between sad and depressed. Being depressed is a mental disease therefore, in the second sentence, the author puts the girl in a state of depression rather than just being saddened.

Taking a word out and replacing it with another similar word is a common mistake of many writers. Anger and frustration can be interchanged incorrectly as well. Frustration is more of an annoyed anger, and if used to replace anger it can change the way the reader looks at the writing. Other words that are exchanged are happy and excited, disgusted and sickened, light-hearted and bubbly, and thousands of other synonyms that, while similar, can have a drastic change on the meaning of something.

Synonyms, while helpful, can also be dangerous. If someone types into the search bar “synonym for funny,” multiple words come up. A few of those words are amusing, humorous, witty, peculiar, bizarre, and quirky. The writer might choose one of those words at random and change the meaning of the entire sentence.

The switching of words can be especially terrible when a word has more than one meaning. The word “wound” can mean two drastically different things. In one case, it means to inflict an injury on someone. In another scenario it can mean to coil or twine about something. Both are verbs, but their meanings are completely different. If a sentence is phrased in a way that makes either definition work, it may confuse the reader. The accuracy of all the words in a sentence are just as important to making the reader understand the sentence as a single word.

Some words are interchangeable, but most are not. Writers need to be aware of when they can substitute their words and when they have changed the meaning of their sentences. Language has the power to heal but it can also harm if used incorrectly. The precision of words is what makes this difference and turns a dull blade into a sharp sword. With accurate language, anyone can wield the sword of language.