Words matter.

What we write in our blogs, tweets, texts, and novels, and what we sell to our public matters quite lot.

Writers have a responsibility—perhaps greater these days than ever, given the quantity and severity of our social, economic, and cultural crises—to make wise choices, to choose words and topics carefully, and to subjugate personal needs in favor of the greater good.

Writers today must lead courageously, even if it means not making a sale.

scott olson, gett images news

scott olson, getty images news

If writers and publishers aren’t careful, think of the possible consequences: What if an old news report about a public firm filing for bankruptcy was inadvertently re-published on the Internet years after the fact?

This happened to United Airlines in 2008, when an article published in 2002 about United’s then-announcement to file bankruptcy re-surfaced on the web. Shares in United stock plunged 75% in less than an hour, before recovering much of that by the end of the day.

Words—their content, timing, and context—matter.

Words cause people to act.

What if a novelist writes such a real-sounding story that its plot becomes part of the audience’s real understanding of the subject, even if the plot is pure fabrication? If you have a look at statistics concerning Americans’ awareness and understanding of complex global issues, it’s easy to imagine readers mistaking fiction for fact in this way:

The U.S. is not one of the Top 10 countries with the highest Primary School enrollments (number enrolled as a percentage of relevant age group). Nor is it one of the Top 10 countries with the highest tertiary (includes all post-secondary education, essentially) enrollments. And finally, though South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong, and Canada make up the Top 4 countries in student performance around reading scores (PISA 2006 results), the U.S. does not make the Top 10 list (The Economist Pocket World in Figures, 2009 Edition).

© John Dila 2009

To be continued.

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