October – the Power of Language

This is meant to be a monthly blog but in September I decided to take some time out, to try and recuperate a little from the whole C-thing (not Christmas…).

Something that has struck me in the last few months is the power of words, the power of language. The way we shape a sentence can imply a meaning. We may intend it, we may not.

Despite not being a copywriter, I have had some work putting together blogs. I have done some work for a cycling blog. Doing my research for this I noted the use of language in articles about traffic accidents, particularly how the choice of language could imply cause.

Think about the subtle differences here with these three articles linked below:

Bike collided with car.

Car collided with cyclist.

Car and bus collided.

Do the first two imply the first vehicle at fault? Does the third imply equal liability?

Is it deliberate? Is it an attempt by the writer to suggest blame?

Also note the second: “car” collides with “cyclist”. Not “driver collides with cyclist” or “car collides with bicycle”. Why is one form of transport (the car) referred to as an inanimate object and one as a person (cyclist)? Is it to avoid blaming the driver and if so does it imply the cyclist was at fault?

I am not trying to imply anything regarding liability or the thoughts of the reporter etc in these. I’m just trying to highlight how the subtleties of language can imply something or can make people infer things when there’s nothing to infer.

As a proofreader, I can help pick up on these unintended meanings in your text. It may be subtle, but a fresh pair of eyes may pick up on it and save potential embarrassment. If you want me to check your text then please contact me.

Kindly proofread by Janice Gilbert of WordPerfectProof.

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