Words

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about writing. Today, I want to talk about something more fundamental: Words.

I'm a writer, so words have special meaning for me. I get hung up on words. Sometimes a single word. Because when you change even one word, what can happen?

You can completely change what you mean.

Meaning can get changed in a good way. And a bad way. Intentionally, or unintentionally.

Which puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of who?

The writer.

I've heard some clever excuses for the misuse of words by a writer:

"Oh, he just didn't get what I meant."

"I can't help what you heard; I can only help what I said."

"That was absolutely clear. She must be really stupid."


As someone who makes his living with words, I've learned to be as careful as I can to ensure I use the exact word to describe the exact meaning I intend.

And still I fail. Someone, somewhere misconstrues my meaning. Someone reads something between the lines, or just plain sees something that isn't there. It happens.

Words mean things. Advertising folks have a tendency to be loose with words and their meanings. My favorite example (and biggest cringe inducer) is from a brand for whom I'm a zealot: Apple.

Think different.

Remember that one? Yeah, everyone knows what they meant. But it's still incorrect.

Okay, so we're not talking about an accidental death or a collapsed building. It's a headline.

Still, we have a responsibility to be as precise as we can when we use words. They have meaning. There are consequences.

I like to say that the creative brief is the first step in the creative process. It's the place where you have the chance, as a brief writer, to influence the outcome of the creative itself.

Get it wrong here and it may very well show up when you see the first round of creative concepts.

Euripides said, "A bad beginning makes a bad ending."

Please make sure you choose your words wisely.