The Power of Words

Words that_ Achieve

“The pen is mightier than the sword”, wrote 19th century English novelist, poet, playwright, and politician, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. He clearly believed in the power of words to achieve. Here’s three examples of words having done just that.

Martin Luther King

Stood in front of 250,000 people in Washington, Martin Luther King is best remembered for his 1963 speech that helped achieve change for greater peace and equality in America:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

It might be hard to believe now, but in 1950s America, racial segregation meant African Americans were forced to sit separately in the back of buses, expected to surrender their seats to white people, and made to use separate drinking fountains, public toilets, and park benches.

Martin Luther King believed in non-violent direct action and used the power of words to unite people behind the civil rights movement. In 1963 there weren’t any giant television screens to broadcast his speech to the quarter of a million people who turned out to hear him speak. To them he was a small speck in the distance; it was his words alone that kept them engaged and inspired to achieve change.

Ernest Hemmingway

Legend has it that while dining at a restaurant with other writers, Ernest Hemingway bet the table ten dollars each that he could craft a complete story in just six words. His fellow diners confidently bet against him. Scribbling on a napkin, he wrote “For sale: baby’s shoes, never worn”. The dinner guests promptly handed over their money.

When it comes to writing engaging content, less is often more. Whether this story is rooted in truth or myth, it demonstrates the ability of concise, accurate words to achieve the speaker’s or writer’s goals.

Time to Change

Time to Change is a mental health campaign in England, and was launched in 2009 to reduce mental health-related stigma and discrimination. A four-week television advertising campaign promoted its slogan: “It’s time to talk. It’s Time to Change.”

The campaign message was clear; conversations change lives. Rather than ignoring a friend or colleague who is struggling with mental health issues for fear of what to say, the campaign highlighted the importance of words in reaching out to others and helping them feel less isolated. Simply asking “How are you today?” could make a huge difference in the life of someone who is experiencing mental health difficulties.

National surveys show a 8.3% positive change in the overall attitude trend between 2008 and 2014, according to analyses led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London – that’s 3.4 million people with improved attitudes, achieved through encouraging people to use the power of words.