We need to get the words right

The good news is that we all write. The bad news is that we all write.

Early in our life, we are all taught to write. Anybody who can pick up a pencil can write. It’s not like drawing. Here, we make a greater distinction between who can draw and who can’t. But putting words to paper feels more democratic. Everyone can write.

This is a wonderful thing. Because it encourages us all to add our ideas. This is a troublesome thing as well. Because very few are great at reducing a powerful sentiment to just a few goosebumps-inducing words.

Words are powerful. Walt Disney said, “If you dream it, you can do it.” Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” And John F. Kennedy asked us, “If not us, who? If not now, when?"


It doesn’t take pages upon pages of words to inspire. In fact, those who reduce a sentiment down to just a few words are the ones we quote. They are the ones that inspire us.


Choosing our words carefully

Finding the right words requires more than a good thesaurus. It also requires the use of a good deal of restraint. It’s as much what you leave out as what you leave in.

This is where the challenge becomes evident. Remember how I mentioned we are all writers? We all have ideas we feel compelled to add. But few of us are great editors.

It is the editing we need. To weed out the distracting language. To get to the heart of the idea. To communicate with deep meaning. And to inspire interpretation.This makes our words engaging, meaningful, and sustainable.

Is this a tall order? To create something engaging, meaningful, and sustainable with just a handful of words?


Is it worth the trouble? We have to ask ourselves what we want those words to do. If we're creating a mission statement so we can check off the mission statement box, then let’s not bother. But if we are looking for more than a mission. If we're looking for people to believe in what we're doing. If we're looking to create a movement. Then we need to choose our words very, very carefully.

Who knows. Someday, somebody may be quoting us.

Dan Salva is a co-founder of Will & Grail, with more than three decades of experience in brand marketing and developing and implementing go-to-market strategies. He can be reached at dsalva@willgrail.com.

ProcessDan Salva