This week, the Foghorn staff explored the power of words and the impact they have in our culture in honor of National Poetry Month. We composed a poem by having staff members finish the sentence, “Words have the power to…”
When our staff discussed why we each completed the sentence the way we did, we realized that words can inspire us, breed hate in us, give us hope, and provide us knowledge. Words are versatile. They can be weaponized for good and for bad, can describe just about anything, and they know no limits except for the ones we put on them.
One of the most interesting aspects of words is how their invention, individualization, and recontextualization is reflective of the ever-changing society which uses them. For millennia, words have allowed us to communicate complex ideas to one another, like our emotions.
Words carry so much weight because they are consistently manipulated. Depending on a host of factors, like who is using them and how they are doing so, words can be used to lead us to a factual truth or down a path of ignorance and misinformation. Words hold the incredible power to both unite and divide us. While there have been many times in American history when words have been used to bring us together, we must also be cognizant of how dangerous and damaging they can also be. For evidence of this damage, we need not look further than the hate speech, propaganda, and fake news which has become prominent in our political climate.
For good or for bad, words have the power to change the world. They reflect the changes we are undergoing individually and also the constantly-evolving way we communicate with one another. From old English to texting, our use of words has everything to do with our ability to adapt as a collective.
As journalists, we understand the power of the written word. Although our form of writing is much different from poetry, our work puts words together to create a story that informs the public.
We encourage you to consider a similar exercise because we believe it is important to regularly reflect on the impact and purpose of one’s written endeavours. One way to begin is to think of a time when words changed the way you saw something. Whether you’re writing in a journal, turning in a paper, or chronicling something on your social media, ask yourself why you’re putting your written word out into the world.
We use words so often that we tend to forget just how special they actually are. Our ability to perceive and learn from complicated ideas is what sets humans apart from other animals at our core. This would not be possible without language. A reflection on the power of language is important for everyone — not just for those of us whose work revolves around writing — because we all communicate and communication is powerful.
“Words have the power to…” by the Foghorn staff
Words have the power to make us curious.
Words have the power to change how we see the world around us.
Words have the power to guide us and lead us astray.
Words have the power to bring us together.
Words have the power to help us better understand each other.
Words have the power to change the very notion of what it means to be human.
Words have the power to bond us in unimaginable ways, and share stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told.