Words have an unmitigated power, they can form bridges just as easily as they can dismantle them. In times of division, words can bring a group of unique people together to work towards a common goal. Words can cause anarchy and riots but they can also enhance everyday life. There are common words and words that you only ever see on standardized tests but all the words in the world have no meaning if they aren’t being used. And it is how we, as people. use words that give them power.
Most people don’t really take into consideration the words they use. When was the last time you wondered when you started saying the word “like” so much? How often have you wondered why there are people who speak English (or whatever your native tongue may be) better than you when it is their second or third language? And yes, I am a bit of a grammar Nazi when it comes to the written word but I am constantly slipping into vernacular and “bad English,” which doesn’t even exist. But that is what got me thinking. No matter how much someone says my English does not belong, it does and no matter what words I use, my words have power. Don’t believe me? Remember Shakespeare? The Shakespeare that we use as a basis of English life in his time? Well, guess what? Nobody liked the way he wrote. Shakespeare was not famous when he started out because he used the vernacular of the common people which was seen as outlandish and brutish. Today, we think of Shakespeare as the epitome of playwrights. Shakespeare made up a lot of words too, and everybody uses them. Doubt it? Assassination did not exist until good old William decided he needed a word to describe the murder of someone noteworthy.
My words are just as powerful and so are yours.
The words you speak, the words you write, can change the future. When we go through school and are told to change ourselves, the way we look, act and speak, we begin to think that there is something wrong. That is false. The way you speak, the dialect and the diction, are a part of what makes you unique. Who wants to be like everyone else? Nobody influential ever was, whether they were good or bad. So don’t be afraid to write the way you want to write. If you are bilingual and often slip in and out of a language, why not write like that? Trust me, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of people wondering why there has never been a character that sounds like them.
Your words can impact someone else’s life. We see that quite often but usually for the worse. We see bullying and things that tear down, we read news that causes us to lose hope in humanity, that stresses us out or makes us doubt that change can happen. Why not be the one person who uses your words to make a virtuous impact? Just try it on for size. The next time you post something on social media, use colloquial terms that not everyone may get. Write a poem or a short story the same way. If it never sees the light of day doesn’t matter as much as you knowing that it is perfectly acceptable for you to write that way. Dohra Ahmad came out with an anthology a few years ago that made me happy, for all lovers of the written word I suggest you check it out. It is called Rotten English and it is an anthology of works done in the vernacular. It is a pretty fun read.
Your words can inspire another would-be writer who feels like they would never be good because they don’t write in an “acceptable” way, they drop gerunds and use a lot of punctuation, even when some would say it isn’t needed. Just be who you are authentically and maybe someone else will be encouraged to do the same. Who knows, the next Shakespeare could be just a grammar fail away. And if you need some inspiration to do it, join a writing group or start your own for people who write only in the vernacular or people who want their next project to be novel in that way.
Close the gap. There is no right or wrong way to write as long as you believe in what you put on the page.
Need a writing group? Try Writer’s Relief or Facebook, or even MeetUp. There is also Underlined and NanoWriMo. I’m joining CampNanoWriMo this year, which takes place in April and is a less intense version of National Writing Month where you choose your own goal. You may even end up being in my group or “cabin.”
For writers of the vernacular, or what is called “bad English” check out:
M. NourbeSe Philip
Edward Kamau Brathwaite