Words are, of course, one of the most fundamental elements of writing.  Fortunately, we are all very familiar with the term “word” because we use words—and refer to them--regularly in speaking.  This familiarity has positive and negative consequences.  One positive is that we know what words are and can name several of them.  One negative is that words function somewhat differently in writing than in speech. Words have many definitions, both connotative and denotative.  Furthermore, words are, like language, living organisms.  Their meanings are changing all of the time.  Communication, as the philosopher and educator John Dewey reminds us, shares the same root as the word community.  The connections between these two words communication and community are ones that we may too often overlook.  What one word means to you may not mean the same thing to your reader.  Is communication possible when you are not part of the same community as your readers?  What happens when a word means one thing to you and another to your reader?  These are just some of the questions to consider as you think about words in your writing.  


Adapted from What Is Writing?: An Introduction to Writing as an Act and Medium of Communication (2015). 

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