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Words have Consequences

One of the most common mistakes a freelance writer can make is doing too much research. Over-researching a topic takes up writing time, and writing faster is an important asset for a copywriter to have.

I’m very aware that words have consequences. I want to make everything I write as truthful as possible. I don’t want to mislead anyone. Especially when I’m not familiar with the subject, I tend to do a lot more research than I need.

I never really thought about the power of words until I took a journalism course.  Before warning us that, while the story he was about to tell us wasn’t directly related to journalism ethics (the topic we were studying), the professor wanted to know whether or not we would have written the article. The story was this:

In the 1950s, an editor assigned a writer to do a “fluff” piece about a company that produced a popular kids’ dessert. They were said to have used the crushed carapaces of beetles to produce red dye for some of their red fruit flavours. The tone of the article was to be “Haha…parents this is what you’re feeding your kids.” Once the story was published, of course there was a hue and cry. The company stopped using crushed beetle carapaces and replaced it with red dye #Whatever. Fast-forward to the mid-60s.  The red dye they used to replace the beetles turned out to be highly carcinogenic. (Needless to say the use of this particular red dye number has been discontinued.)

We all agreed (there was about 11 of us) that we would have gone ahead and written the story, simply because we couldn’t tell the future. If we were so afraid of what might happen because of something we wrote, we would never write it. But I never forgot the professor’s lesson – our words have weight.  And I must never forget their power.

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One comment on “Words have Consequences

  1. Especially printed ones. Good food for thought.

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