Saturday, November 19, 2016

Wording--Intent and Purpose

Any word creates communication. Most words hold multiple meanings and connotations, especially in the context of the words mixed with it. This makes word choice essential in presenting purpose. The understanding of every communication depends on this, and it works.
Visual communication includes more than words. Appearance, body language, topic, tone of voice, facial expressions, and specific words used all play a part. Tone, delivery speed, and loudness assist with audio communication. Real-time conversations are often off the cuff. Due to this, even with expressions and tones, spur of the moment wording frequently creates misunderstanding.
When only words are used, the choice of words must make up for all that is missing in other forms of communication. Depending on genre and intent, editing of recorded communications of any type can correct or distort words. All writers use this inherent quality of words to load them with intent. Factual writers most often work to avoid such ambiguity, but storytellers develop it to exploit character and meaning. In turn, the readers interpret meaning according to their understanding of the words. In fiction, this can change the reader’s perception of characters and their actions.
For instance, Dr. Bob (one of the writers listed below) gave this example for this blog topic: She had to be the sexiest-looking 42-year-old on the planet, the best that money could buy.
Is this loaded language? Yes. Is it good or bad? Actually, neither and both; it depends on the writer’s purpose, which depends on who makes this observation within the story, and the writer’s intent for the character so described. The ultimate interpretation depends on the reader, their empathy and perception of the words’ purpose.
Every story is just a compilation of words used to expose character and situation, yet every reader’s personal experiences and imagination respond to the framework of the words used. Based on both the author’s word choices and the reader’s interaction with those words, their acumen, biases, perceptions, and sympathies give either understanding or confusion. Furthermore, a writer might use a word’s meaning to clarify, or even to lead the reader astray, with the intent for an emotional effect that increases the readers' interest. Luckily, whether the author uses commonplace or unusual wording, or desires to clarify or introduce uncertainty, the language lets the author play within the reader’s mind. The words build a sense of place and reality, allowing each reader to understand a character or situation, which grows the story’s purpose.

Wording is important. Yet I have to admit, in my fiction writing, I sometimes use ambiguous wording to encourage reader involvement. As a reader, I have found this a very useful technique either to cement a character's qualities or to mislead the reader temporarily for a better understanding later; however, authors need awareness of their wording choices without overdoing it.

Check out these blogs for more insight on word choices:

Skye Taylor
Marci Baun 
Margaret Fieland
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich 
Rachael Kosinski
Judith Copek
Helena Fairfax
A.J. Maguire 


  1. While I focused on words that describe a character, you went the next step to how words set the tone - excellent post. In Bob's example the tone was, as one other blogger mentioned, a commentary on the woman in question and it actually said more about who was making the comment than about her. Great post.

  2. Rhobin, I didn't even consider using word choices to lead the reader astray. I always secretly love doing that. Very good point. :)

  3. Rhobin, it's an excellent point that the written word in a book needs to carry all the meaning, without the nonverbals present in real-life conversation. If I was telling people a story, I'd have tones of voice, body language, pauses and rate of speech, variations in volume. I have often read that 95% of communication is such nonverbals, and have to tell you, that's NOT TRUE. It's not common knowledge but common misinformation. :)
    All the same, we need to get that information across using only little black marks on a page.
    I think it's a form of magic.

  4. It always bothered me when an English teacher would tell the class how we were supposed to interpret a book. Perhaps they were right, but, unless the author specifically wrote down their intent, even giving their life circumstances and the time period, we will never know what the author intended. While I was very good at interpreting per the teacher's instruction, I always felt that it was more important what the individual reader got out of the story than what the teacher told them they should. That, to me, was much more interesting and spoke to the talent of the author's ability to transcend academia's preconceptions of their work.

    Another fun topic and great post.


  5. I like how you pint out the writers perspective when using words as well as the readers perspective as they associate the words with their experiences. And using words to lead readers astray is a great idea. Thanks, for an interesting post, Rhobin.

  6. That's a great point you make about using certain wording to mislead the reader, or to direct them in a certain way. Sometimes writing is like a sleight of hand. It's so great when that works well. Thanks for the great post, and the thought-provoking topic!

  7. Rhobin, good post. When we're present in person, we take in a lot more than we can typically describe, even when we note body language, clothing, actions, and the like.

    As to word choice, I write a lot of poetry, and I am a huge fan of the thesaurus. If I had to pick out one tool to help my writing, that would be it.

  8. It's good to read such a good blog post sometimes.