Three Reasons Why Words Still Matter

Mess of WordsForget what you’ve heard about how the value of the printed word decreases every day, how spelling no longer matters and how abbreviations like “JK,” “LOL” and “IMHO” are perfectly acceptable outside of the virtual world.

Here are three reasons why words still matter — more than ever:

1. Content, as the cliché goes, is still king. In fact, its reign has made lots of people’s jobs more difficult. With more than 4.3 billion Internet pages out there, the probability of making someone care about you or your organization’s website rests almost solely on your ability to consistently communicate concisely and confidently, eloquently and effectively. On top of all that, search engine optimization demands that the words you choose actually be the correct ones.

This holds true regardless of the type of business you’re in. If you’re not regularly providing new and exciting opportunities for readers to engage with your publication, company or brand, those readers will go elsewhere.

2. Print will never die. Don’t believe the doomsayers who’ve been predicting the demise of publishing for more than a decade. The Big Six book publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins) all are making money, according to recent reports. In fact, it could be argued that such digital media as magazine apps, online long-form storytelling and eBooks are boosting the demand for print products — and vice versa. In early September, Amazon announced its Kindle Matchbook program, which will allow customers to buy inexpensive e-copies of past, present and future hardcover or paperback books they purchased. Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Kindle content for Amazon, hinted at that strategy in April. “I believe we’ll look back in five years and realize that digital was one of the great expansions of the publishing business,” he told Wired magazine.

Digital media also is making an even more urgent case for the importance of a good editor and proofreader. Today’s eBook readers frequently give one-star reviews to titles simply because they’re riddled with typos. And we all know prospective buyers read the bad reviews.

3. The wrong words can make the wrong first impression. Words are how we introduce ourselves in the 21st century. Emailing has replaced cold-calling, and websites have marginalized sales pitches. Even one misspelling or grammatical error in an introductory email or on a website’s homepage — or a press release so poorly written that it doesn’t even get read — can end a business relationship before it’s begun. I’ve seen this happen with multimillion-dollar companies, speakers and consultants, and authors and musicians, and it damages credibility like nothing else. Such mistakes can be costly, too.

In the past decade, our instant-gratification culture has succeeded in cheapening the value of words — to the point where younger generations possibly no longer even understand that actual words (and not abbreviations) remain the fundamental core of nearly every success in life.

What was your most recent reminder that words still matter?

— Michael Popke
Two Lakes Media Group