I love words. They have limitless power. They can leap tall buildings, move mountains, inspire multitudes, bridge divides, race to the finish and so much more. Verbs captivate, celebrate, accelerate and exemplify, all in a day’s work. Nouns, the ying to the verb’s yang, convey with ease concepts like power, wonder, peace and love and serve as cataloger of all things we need to identify.
Words are real workhorses – I like that. They seldom complain, and there are endless things you can do with them. You can eat them, swallow them, shout them or whisper them. You can sing them, rhyme them or make them dance. You can place and misplace, use and abuse them. You can share them or keep them to yourself. You can love them, hate them or just ignore them. They are multi-faceted and multi-talented. While the unfamiliar may approach them with fear or awe, the admirer is drawn to their diversity and is never bored.
I love sentences. This assembly of words can provoke laughter or instill fear, all according to their mood. Sentences have convened words together throughout the ages, across all cultures. There are lost phrases and oft repeated ones. Some become aphorisms or live on as quotes to guide and remind. Others are associated with great leaders or famous people — the words themselves pay no mind. When misbehaving, they may dangle the odd modifier, but for the most part, they are quite considerate, throwing lifelines to dependent clauses and otherwise being supportive of adverbs, adjectives and articles. And size is of no import — to be mighty, the sentence needn’t be long, only clear and precise. Marketers are among their biggest fans, gleeful at their ability to persuade. Critical thinkers, on the other hand, are far more aloof in their encounters, recognizing their ability to communicate truth as well as to dissemble.
And then there is the paragraph – I’m very fond of those too. Sentences strung together, they play amiably, one building on the other. Working in harmony, they extend meaning, add value and illuminate. When enough of them gather in one spot, they blossom into letters, reviews and articles. They hang around the office water cooler as brochures, white papers and annual reports. They take spoken form in scripts and plays and bind themselves together in covers hard and soft. They hold meetings in neatly organized catalogs and encyclopedias. They spin the web with ease, carried at lightning speed on the backs of 1’s and 0’s over satellite and cable.
I love stories. When two or more paragraphs get hitched, the offspring develops into one or more particular ideas. Think back to the nursery stories we heard as children, designed to impart important lessons for life’s journey. Consider the story’s varied forms — fable, parable, myth or the business world, the case study. Many a political or religious movement was started with a story, seeking followers paragraph by paragraph. The best stories can seem to give meaning to existence and explain the workings of the universe. A well crafted one can capture essence without including details –it can stop you in your tracks with its brilliant simplicity. A sad story can make you cry. And of course, a very short funny story has come to be called a joke and who doesn’t like those?
Throughout history, the power of story has captured human imagination and motivated entire nations. Individuals clamor to tell their own stories in diaries, blogs and memoirs. Look on-line and it seems the entire world is out there commenting, reviewing, blogging and sharing their stories at a furious pace.
Stories as a form, and how to tell them, are more popular than ever. All manner of businesses try to translate brands brand into stories that resonate with customers. Elected leaders look to strike chords with voters using anecdotes about the local impact of their work. The media, the big game hunters of the story, constantly have their noses in the air, sniffing out the barest hint of a good story, ready to pounce on the tastiest ones. Revered institutions know how critical it is that they continue to tell the story of their accomplishments to stay relevant and in public favor. The best organizations, associations and communities capture in story the experiences and emotions of their members. And it all starts with words.
I love words. The most precise of them, skillfully grouped, make for compelling reading. As a writer, they are my basic building block. They are nothing if not versatile. I love being able to sculpt them into sentences, paragraphs and stories. I like looking at them, playing with them, arranging and re-arranging them. I enjoy whittling at them one moment, dressing them up another. I relish their potential, alternately letting them flow or reining them in as we team together to capture an idea, express a thought and share information. Some days they seem stubborn and reluctant, others amazingly cooperative. I try not to judge. Most days we have a fabulous time together.
How about you? What is your relationship with words? What do you like to do with them?
© 2012 Anne Doherty Johnson
About the Author
Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations. She has over 20 years experience working for membership organizations matched by leadership roles for professional and non-profit associations. She views membership from both sides of the table , having been and still serving as both a professional provider and personal consumer of membership services. Equipped with a keen business sense and public relations savvy, she has created successful marketing campaigns to sell memberships, events, products and services. She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals. Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.
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