Friday, September 14, 2007

Accidental Meaning: Weigh Your Words

You often find discussions on on-line business and blogging fora about getting people to come to your site. Doing so allows you to lure them in with whatever fascinating or scintillating things you offer. For me, drawing people here lets me dazzle them with my wit and insight into the English language.

I am surprised to see the prevalence of the phrase “drive traffic to” a site. This calls to mind sheep or cattle, something unwilling forced to head down a particular path. Generally, I picture the thing at the end of such a path to be a slaughterhouse or at least somewhere you get fleeced.

Why am I writing about this? Each time I read a post or response with that term, I can’t help but wonder if the writer has thought about the words. That leads me to the wider thought that folks don’t think about the meaning of the words they choose when the post publicly. I know that I have been guilty of posting something ambiguous or that produces a negative reaction in readers.

Weighing your words makes a difference to how others perceive you on boards. How much more do the words in a static article or business web site convey?

When you proofread your work, look at the words not only in their grammatical context but with regard to their imagery as well. Consider the mental pictures that everyday words generate for your readers. You can’t be responsible for one individual’s bad associations, but you can keep in mind the various meanings of the words you use.

With the example I’m using for this thread, I assume that most people do not intend to imply that they would like to force or trick people into visiting their site. They simply use a term they have read elsewhere without considering what it means.

Think for yourselves, folks! Posts and articles that bear your name will convey impressions to readers with or without your intention. Make those words count and say what you mean.