Why Words Matter

“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” You may have heard this phrase from your spouse, mother, or close relative when expressing your sentiment about an ongoing family feud. This is true, but it is also what you say that tugs on people’s hearts and determines one’s ability to accurately construe the message. The bedrock in any aspect of communication is the sender-receiver relationship. Throughout this relationship, the sender of the message must account for the rhetorical frames presented around it. Senders play a pivotal role as they consciously craft their messages. The goal of framed messages is to: evoke emotion, enforce deep-thinking processes in which people begin to look extensively inside themselves, and give people something to believe in and feel empowered. Those people are the receivers. Their only job is to take everything in.

The questions then are, “who is a sender and who is a receiver?” In reality, anyone is capable of being a sender and a receiver. What is pertinent to understanding this relationship is that the sender is always the initiator. They are the ones that give people something to think about. Whether you are a writer for the New York Times, creating a Facebook post, or even having a conversation with a relative about a subject matter, you are the sender and you are in control of preparing a message that can impact your audience.

For instance, when discussing racial injustices in America, specifically, police brutality against black Americans, there were two ways in which the news of George Floyd was presented – death and murder. There is a difference in saying, “the death of George Floyd” and “the murder of George Floyd.” Using the word “death” to describe Floyd’s perishing substantially minimizes what he endured and does not hold those accountable for their actions. Not only that, if someone had no prior information about Floyd’s passing, “death” does not tell the audience how he died. However, “murder” is an active and precise word that not only strikes a stronger emotional chord with people, it allows the rhetorical frame to be an additive to the message. It is a message within a message. Words have profound meanings no matter how big or small.

As a disseminator, you may find yourself in predicaments where you are uncertain if and how your audience will receive your message. Three ways of ensuring successfulness are: being fully aware of the political climate of the current time, confidently knowing who your audience is, and having many people on your team who will have various perspectives and interpretations helping craft the message. To a considerable degree, the pressure on senders to get it right the first time is undoubtedly important, and it can be a huge risk to take. Do not let the pressure discourage you, the key is that you are in control.

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