Your Word Choice Matters

Choosing the right words is a key component of being a writer

Jenna Goldsmith

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How much does word choice matter?

I’d say quite a bit. But, that’s just my opinion.

Recently, I read an article that troubled me. The author – though clearly intelligent and eloquent – used the word “deserve” when talking about body types and body positivity.

Her message was:

You have the body you deserve.

Now, I’m of the opinion that the cancer patient, the chronically ill, those with disabilities didn’t do anything to incite some karmic wrath against their bodies. But that’s the impression I got from this message.

The word came up over and over. And the thing was, it seemed out of place in an article that was supposed to be about body positivity and not needing fancy clothes to go to the gym. Weird, right?

But everything I agreed with was quickly replaced with the idea that if your body looks or behaves a certain way, then you’re not working hard enough. It’s your own fault.

Yikes.

When I pointed this out in my response – note: I specifically used the word “ableist” – I received a lengthy and borderline pretentious response in defense of her work.

The message was that I clearly missed what she was saying (I didn’t) and if I bothered to read the entire article (I did), I would’ve understood what she meant. She used the word “deserve” on purpose to get some point across that I clearly wasn’t smart enough to get. My pointing out her problematic wording was thrown back at me as some sort of telling trait about me. She also threw in a mention of how prolific she was with her writing, which I thought was weird.

This whole encounter inspired me to really think about word choice.

Even if she didn’t mean what I thought she meant. Even if I completely misinterpreted the use of that specific word. Her choice of words caused a fundamental misunderstanding, which could’ve been avoided with the use of another.

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