National Words Matter Week-March 7-13, 20201

Words do matter, so how many words does the average speaker use in a day?

A quick Google search did not give me a definitive answer with some studies saying around 7000 and others closer to 16,000. I think I probably fall on the higher end if there is a listening ear in my vicinity! Apparently, I’ve always liked to talk.  My mother tells stories about me standing (pre car seats and seatbelts) behind her in the car and talking nonstop!

I am also a reader of words. I always have a book (mostly fiction) in progress. I read the newspaper and I love the daily comics.

I work with words too. By education I am a speech therapist. Our business is communication. It’s all about words. You truly understand how much words matter when you have a client or patient that can’t speak, can’t communicate basic wants and needs, can’t use words to have meaningful relationships.

And I am a writer. The ideas that grow in my head want to be read by the picture book crowd.  And the words matter.  There are so few in a picture book, you need to make each one count. I love seeing the illustrations my words inspire and how they work with the words to tell the story.

With the written word we take the time to choose the right word. But when we talk words fly out of our mouths before our brain vets them.  Many words are loaded with emotions. However, the same word can be loaded with different emotions for each of us. Just like we all have a refrigerator, but if you opened the door different things would be inside. So, as writers and as people, we have to think about this as we choose our words in conversation, writing and on social media. We have to know our audience. Even a word that seems benign might not be. For me the word HOME brings warm feelings of family, love, acceptance, but someone who lives in a house without love and acceptance will react to the word HOME differently than I do.

Words don’t exist in a pure state, but in context. Not just the context of the words around them but in the context of the speaker and the listener. That’s why a book, a tweet, a news article can be liked by one person and rejected by another. Yet words are how we communicate, so we have to remember that  the words and what is behind them matter when we share them and when we listen to others.

Words matter; words are powerful. Use them wisely.

Author: Holly Niner

Holly Niner is the author of No More Noisy Nights illustrated by Guy Wolek, and The Day I Ran Away illustrated by Isabella Ongaro. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

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