Writing and Publishing

Being Right Doesn’t Always Matter

When I first entered the workforce, I asked an older, wiser friend to review my resume. She chastised me for using the word telephony, laughing at my “made-up word.” Even though I used it correctly and my prospective employers would (likely) understand it, my friend’s mirth and Master’s degree intimidated me, so I removed telephony from my resume.

Another time, I heard about a man who correctly used the word niggardly, which means stingy, but people thought he made a racial slur; he was fired over it. (Read about some other confusing words.)

Recently I learned a word I really want to use: theocrasy. This would fit nicely in a book I’m working on, but I fear readers will misread it or think I made a typo and meant theocracy, which conveys a different idea. (It doesn’t help that both words are pronounced the same.)

My conclusion is that being right doesn’t matter if people misunderstand what you’re saying.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

4 replies on “Being Right Doesn’t Always Matter”

Am I right for my intended reader? That’s what matters most to me: clear communication.

I would use the right word for my reader, because that’s the only way I can make sure that my ego isn’t making my decisions.

If I’m writing fiction, and it seems likely that a character might use a particular word, then I will go ahead and use it because consistency of the character matters to me.

No matter what, it’s about making the “right choice” rather than “being right”.

If your goal is to communicate to the reader, I feel that you definitely need to change your wording so that communication can take place.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!