A Brief Word About Words


A writer constructs a world from ideas, images and words. The bit that makes him or her a writer is the use of words: if, instead of words, the fundamental medium had been music notes, then we would have a composer; if paint, a painter; if stone, a sculptor, and so on.

But a writer uses ideas, images and words to build something. Until words come along, the ideas and images are locked in an area of reality inaccessible to anyone else, in some sort of zone within the writer. It is the use of words - packages of symbols which convey sound and meaning - which enables the contents of that zone to be described and potentially understood by a reader. Words are not only bricks with which a writer creates something - they are recognisable units, so that what is created becomes tangible on some level for others.

Words have at their core some kind of meaning. That meaning may be misunderstood in transmission, but a word is generally a form that communicates a specific significance, and, in those complex leagues with other words which are the patterns known as syntax and grammar, a word becomes part of a larger meaningful pattern.

There is a great deal of material which has been developed in this particular field, much of which has not yet been recorded. But the basics don’t change: human beings assign simple meanings to symbols, which then become more complex as words. Words then empower people to be able to communicate material which would otherwise remain beyond their reach.

A person in command of words can make the unhappy happy and the happy miserable. A wordsmith can create any number of shades of reality and change them at will, if he or she knows what they are doing - and even if they don’t quite know. That’s because human beings take in words, either through reading or through listening, sometimes quite indiscriminately. And these words can have an impact on their own inner worlds, affecting them intellectually, emotionally and even spiritually, before any filter can protect them.

People without a full understanding of the technology of words can still use them to either very positive or very devastating effect. It’s possible to take advantage of the fact that words are so powerful to affect others negatively or for their good without even being a practised writer or speaker. But someone who has the knowledge and skills of how to use words and writing to their full extent is armed with powerful tools or weapons which can be used for good or ill.

At some level, perhaps, or at some point in the future, it may become possible to communicate the inner worlds of individuals without using words. Perhaps some other, as-yet-unthinkable unit of meaning will be developed which will permit mind-to-mind communication with no reference to the written or spoken packages we know as ‘words’. But until that point is reached, if it ever is, the best things we have for reaching into the realities of others are words.