That Would Be Great

Alexander-the-Great

In actuality, it probably wouldn’t be great at all. Not by a long shot.

I’d like all of us to give the word “great” its due. The Great Wall Of China is great. Alexander The Great Was great. The Great Books are great. Finding a cure for cancer would be great. Responding to an email isn’t great. It’s polite, it’s nice, and it may even be splendid, but it’s not great. Example: When we craft an email, give directives, ask favors, or request anything at all, why say something like the following when emailing a co-worker?

“…please make sure that the client gets the updated report, and it would be great if you let me know what their feedback is. Thanks.”

“Great??” THAT would be great? Really? I’m not preaching, because I’ve been guilty of this too. But if we want our words to have the impact they were designed to have, we have to stop watering them down. I’m working on this in my writing and communications too because I’ve been an egregious offender. If someone returns my email and I think that’s “great,” and I’ve communicated to them that taking this action would be “great,” then they think they just did something “great” by doing something they should’ve done anyway.

Here’s a revision of the above correspondence:

“…please make sure that the client gets the updated report. Please let me know what their feedback is. Thanks.”

This version is much better, to the point, no fluff and no killing the language.

When did returning a call, an email, or doing something that we should be doing anyway get equated with greatness?  My returning a call doesn’t parallel the discovery of the polio vaccine. So should I be thinking I’m as cool as Jonas Salk because I picked up the phone? No. But if I won the gold medal in the Olympics, that would be great.

The English language, while perhaps not the most beautiful-sounding language, is the most expressive language in the world. We have far more words–by far–than any other language in the world (approximately 1,000,000 words according to Merriam Webster). Don’t let that number daunt you. We don’t need to know them all. We just need to know the right words for the right situation, and we can go down in history as literary giants. Fun fact: In all of his writings, Shakespeare ‘only’ used about 30,000 words (which is still a lot more than most people use–and he coined about 1,700 original words. Talk about a wordsmith: he invented words!) His full vocabulary is estimated to be closer to 290,000 words that he comprehended. The average person who speaks English as a first language understands 10,000-20,000 words, but only uses 5,000! Let’s all try a little harder to leverage this amazing tool of communication better because that would be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

My English and writing are far from exceptional, so if you see errors, it would be great if you posted a comment. 😉

Thanks for reading!

www.PaulEdgewater.com

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