By Kathy Widenhouse, award-winning content writer and author who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
An online devotional for writers
The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl. (Proverbs 25:11, NCV)
Science affirms what writers have known for decades: word choice matters.
British psychologist and mediation consultant Elizabeth Stokoe has analyzed hundreds of phone calls between mediators and potential clients. She has discovered one word that makes a difference for a resistant prospect to agree to mediation: "willing."
When asked if they would be "willing" to mediate rather than "interested" in mediation, even the most resistant prospect agreed to try the service. "Willingness" implies openness.
"It was the only word that achieved a total turnaround from 'no' to 'yes,'" said Elizabeth. One word choice spurred a positive response.
Conversation analysts John Heritage and Jeffrey Robinson noted a similar conclusion in a National Institutes of Health study. They addressed an important question in medical care: why do patients hesitate to share more than one concern with their doctor during a primary care visit?
The answer was the doctor's word choice - "any" or "some."
When the doctor asked "Are there any other concerns you'd like to address in this visit?" 53% of patients responded affirmatively. Yet when the doctor asked "Are there some other concerns you'd like to address in this visit?" a whopping 90% of patients responded affirmatively.
Why? Patients were primed by how each of the words is used elsewhere. Naming "some" concerns implies you have options. "Any" implies random guesswork (at best) or an exhaustive list (at worst.) The word "some" evokes a positive response.
Have you considered how your word choice can make a difference - positively - in your reader?
One word can make a difference. Positively.
A right word written at the right time in the right place is a good thing. Help me be purposeful. Let my word choices make a positive difference for readers.
In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
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