The Power of the Word

Frequently we become so pragmatic we fail to be effective. A number of years ago the editor of the Dallas Morning News pointed out to the sports writers that “Bill” was not a suitable substitute for “William,” and “Charlie” was not a suitable substitute for “Charles.” Taking him literally, one of the sports writers, in the heyday of Doak Walker of Southern Methodist University, wrote about an important game. In his story he pointed out that in the third quarter Doak Walker had left the game with a “Charles horse.” I think you’ll agree that the story lost some meaning with the use of the word “Charles.”

Perhaps the ultimate absurdity occurred in an article in a national publication when the writer put the computer to Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Incidentally, that Address contains 362 words and 302 of them are one-syllable. Simple and direct but powerful and effective.

The computer, however, made some recommendations as to how the speech really should have been given. For example, instead of saying “Four score and seven years,” the computer deemed that approach too wordy and suggested it should have been “Eighty-seven years ago.” The efficiency in the reduction is obvious, but the loss of effectiveness, power, drama and passion is even more obvious. When Lincoln said, “We are met in a great Civil War,” the computer questioned whether the word “great” was justified. This, despite the fact that more blood was shed and more lives lost in the Civil War than all the other wars in our nation’s history combined. The computer stated that the sentences were too long and criticized the statement, “We could never forget what happened at Gettysburg” as being negative. I think you’ll agree that eloquence and drama, combined with passion, logic and common sense, are far more effective in inspiring people to do great things than technical correctness. Think about it. Use your words carefully, knowing their power. You’ll be a greater contributor to mankind and I’ll SEE YOU AT THE TOP!


A talented author and speaker, Zig Ziglar has an appeal that transcends barriers of age, culture, and occupation. Since 1970, he has traveled over five million miles across the world delivering powerful life improvement messages, cultivating the energy of change. Since 1970, an extensive array of Ziglar audio, video, books, and training manuals have been utilized by small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, U.S. Government agencies, churches, school districts, prisons, and non-profit associations...

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