A Case for Why Words Matter

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the people who know me that I am fond of the old segment on NPR, This I believe.  Every Friday NPR used to share an essay read by the author expressing their most precious pearls of wisdom.  The tenets that make up truly held beliefs. You can read the very first essay by Edward R. Murrow here.

In that spirit, I offer the following:

an ode to words

I believe words matter. 

I love words. I wish I knew more of them. 

I believe words are the greatest and most powerful tool known to humanity. 

Words create shared understanding.   

Words carry weight.  They mark progress.  They pay tribute. 

Words foster hate and fear.  Words authorize discrimination.

Words can advance justice and can cheat progress. 

Words bind.  A legal contract is simply a written understanding with signatures.

It is words on paper that make a marriage lawful; memorializing and legitimizing a union spiritually and legally.

Words express emotions.   They take us back to an experience, a sensation.

Language brings to life sensory experiences.   From how things taste, the feel, the sounds we hear.   

Words give voice to our feelings.  A love letter written to convey a deeply held emotion. It could be argued that it is impossible to find words to communicate such a profound feeling as love. But what a worthy endeavor.

Words ground us. Words can take us into present moment.

For all these reasons, words matter.

 As is said, this, I believe.


The thing with words is that they carry multiple meanings. And not just according to the Oxford Dictionary. Collectively we come from different places, different cultures, different generations.  Establishing shared understanding for the meanings of a word is foundational.  

That’s why I created a Words Matter page on Citizen Discourse. I invite you to take a look and send me a note with any words you think are missing.  And I invite you to read through the definitions and tell me if I should consider amending or adding on to a definition that’s there.

Thank you.  –Karen

Karen GrossComment