RESPONSIBILITIES OF WRITERS AND READERS
T. PIERCE BROWN
What is true of the responsibilities of writers and readers is equally applicable to that of speakers and listeners. Perhaps it will be helpful to list some that occurred to me a few days ago when I read an article where the writer said that something did not “phase” him. I feel sure that he meant, “faze.” It may be that the author used that term, but a proofreader thought he should have used the other. I have noticed that several writers have used the same word in the same way, but do not know that the writer actually used the word or whether the editor or proofreader changed it.
This brings me to the first principle that applies to both writers and readers or speakers and listeners. That is, the writer or speaker should try to use clear and proper terms, words and phrases, as grammatically accurate as possible. I knew a preacher who preached as clearly and succinctly as he could, trying to give a lesson with practical value. When he finished, a man rushed up to joyously shake his hand and said, “I really enjoyed that sermon. You did not make a single grammatical error.” A shocked and sad look came over the preacher’s face, for although he tried to speak correct English, that was not his prime concern. For it to be a prime concern for any speaker or listener is a sad commentary on his spiritual values. So, both writers and readers should be concerned enough about words to try to use the most effective ones, but not so concerned as to make them of prime importance.
I remember hearing a young man who may have been trying to impress someone with his knowledge or ability when he said about the bald prophet, “He possessed no follicle appendages on the cutaneous apex of his cranial structure.” I confess that I wish I had the ability to be a word craftsman like some brethren who show great ability to use words in such a fashion that if they talk about the ocean you can almost feel the salt spray in your face. Some you recognize because they impress you with their loving, lavish, lucid, logical, literary alliterations. They make sonorous and serious sundry statements that startle the sensibilities. However, they should recognize that if they deliberately practice that art they may lose more than they gain. As they become known for their word craftsmanship it may hide the important lesson they are trying to get across. The principle of which the hearer should be aware is: Do not get either enthralled or disgusted with the language of the writer or speaker so that you really miss the meaning of his marvelous message.
So for the writer or speaker, he should speak or write as well as he knows how, without undue concern for artistry. The reader should be aware, when he finds what he considers a mistake to realize that it is possible that the mistake was not made by the writer, but by someone else. Then the reader or listener should always be more concerned with the content and thought of the message than he is with its structure. It is true that mispronunciation, such as “heathern” for “heathen” or “warsh” for “wash,” dangling participles, wrong use of cases such as “They were waiting for he and I to come,” may lessen your respect for the ability of the speaker or writer, but they should not lessen your respect for any insight he may have into God’s word.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600