THE POWER OF THE PRINTED WORD

The printed word has a power of its own and though we give lip-service to the concept, we often take it for granted and frequently fail to really explore it or exploit it for the benefit of our own writings. This is not a power we grant, rather it is one that we may tap into.

My example is the simplicity of the first two lines of Rudyard Kipling’s “Ballad of East and West”: (Disclaimer: I am a real true devotee of his works, having been raised from my earliest on Kim , The Jungle Book, and Just So Stories)

Oh, East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet

till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat.

First, consider the cadence of the words. (Yes, poetry,I know. Meter, after all.) That helps it stick in the mind. We all have at one time or another a song we just couldn’t get out of our heads, haven’t we.

The capitalization of the words East and West give them an extra punch. These two humble statements of eternal verity (“East is East”, “West is West”) so easily straddling the conjunction “and”, stating with clarity a simple fact, plain beyond doubt or argument. These details would be lost on the ear, but the eye scoops up the print and plants it plainly and powerfully on the blank surfaces of the spirit, where it makes its indelible mark.

Spoiler:

For those of you who have not read it, or may have forgotten its story, it draws out, then brings to a confrontational climax the story of two men, a father and a son, from their own respective hemispheres, as they meet in single-combat. Kipling works in their similarities and differences, in compliment and contrast, all the while telling an interesting yarn and, master of the form as he was, including in that mix of contrast and complement, two horses, two armies, two familial relationships, and more. Incidentally, it also has a satisfying conclusion, one that binds up the divisions while acknowledging the differences. But the powerful feelings those words invoke in that first line remain in the mind during the reading and long after you close the book.

Read it here, if you care to (for maximum effect, red it aloud, as if to your children): http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/ballad_of_east_and_west.html

Could it ever have the power if he had written:

East very well may be east, and it is quite possible that west just might actually be west; however the leaned philosophers assure us that these two incorrigibles will never, ever, sit down together.

Conclusions:

  • Simpler is generally better; straightforward beats complex all hollow.
  • Select words that have a LOOK that carries the story, that will plant the anchor in the readers’ minds.
  • Some words and phrases, when used aright, transcend “trite” and “cliche”.

 

Tap into the power (there is that word again – “power”) of the printed word.

Write it, blog it, it sells.

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