Why write a book on words?
At thirty-five years removed from classes in English, my interest in words doesn't stem from a lifelong fetish for strangulating prose with rules. My interest comes from using words to communicate ideas, plus a curiosity about what makes our world work. Sometimes it's amusing.
I'm not an academician, or even the best communicator, and it is neither my purpose here to instruct nor to showcase my prose. It is my purpose to come to a better understanding about these tools we use for communication, and to stimulate others' interest about the influence of words in our world at a lower level than rhetoric. Words influence how we understand our problems, and how we understand the meaning of our lives and the events within them. Each word that we use can make a world of difference.
Really? Does it actually matter how we use words? We misinterpret what each other say because we don't have the same experience, we miss the real meaning of things because our understanding of our words blinds us to other meanings of words and life, and in an era where we have an avalanche of information because of explosive growth, we have major difficulties finding what we want because it is hidden by categorization problems. You be the judge.
Some of the fields this book touches on are semiotics, linguistics, lexicography, and cognitive psychology, which includes artificial intelligence. My fervent hope is to communicate ideas that open windows to new understandings, and to stimulate the readers' interest in these subjects so that they become better communicators than I.
This book touches on many fields in which I am not an expert. I won't apologize for being a generalist and taking a cross-disciplinary approach without becoming an "expert" in each of these fields. I think it is very appropriate for a communicator to have broad comprehension (but not shallow knowledge) of an ever widening array of subjects. The resulting perspective enables greater understanding of the complexity of the human condition and the human experience with which we all wrestle. That is the substance of communications.
This book plays out in a three beat rhythm. A lead page is followed by a humorous downbeat chapter that illustrates something, which in turn is followed by a more serious upbeat chapter exploring that something.
A note about the dedication: Over the years I have published several articles about writing on The Visual Writer, LLC Web site, most of them lampoons of myself or our language that hopefully inspire others to dig deeper and write better. Sometimes I referenced The Writer's Art column, written by James Kilpatrick, or something that I remembered that he had said. Recently when I pulled together these articles, and some other more serious work that I was writing, I realized that James Kilpatrick is a statesman for the language, and I wanted to dedicate this book to him because of his influence. (Warm regards, Mr. Kilpatrick, and thanks for the helpful feedback.)