Search This Blog

Friday, 13 July 2012

Using words responsibly

I have been very conscious lately of how easily the value of something can be enhanced or diminished through the words chosen by its protagonists or detractors. 

The first to come to mind is the polarising of opinions resulting from the Auckland City Council approving the expenditure of $10.6m on the V8 Supercars event.  The report which might have changed the way the council voted, was deliberately withheld by Auckland Tourism, Economic and Events Development, the arm of council charged with ensuring the council has sufficient facts at its disposal to make informed judgments.

In his book (Heart of Stone) about the death of his daughter Azaria, Michael Chamberlain talked about ‘the first great lie’ – when he was told by one of the police detectives involved in the case, that Azaria’s clothing had been found, neatly folded in the crevice of a rock.  A subsequent police lie was uncovered when it was found the blood in the Chamberlains’ car was in fact a mixture of spilt milkshake and chemical spray.  They were two of many.  Now, thirty two years after Azaria’s disappearance, a coroner has concluded the Chamberlains were right all along.

Another row is brewing in New Zealand over the government’s proposed asset sales.  Iwi the length of the country are referring back to the Treaty of Waitangi as they claim their right to be included in the decision making process, whilst the government seems determined to ignore its legal obligations.

What an incredible, powerful tool we have at our disposal.  And when we consider how easily an honourable process can be subverted, how the possession of that tool calls upon us all to act with integrity and decency. 

As writers we have the capacity to enhance others’ lives, or to diminish them.  It is a gift.  Use it with courage.

Hacker Mac

(Erin McKechnie.)


  1. The media is grossly negligent when it comes to the use of language. There is often the mis-use of language thereby making incorrect grammar sound right. Take for instance, the use of "amount" instead of "number". Grrrr! Mis-pronunciation is also a turn-off. I've yet to work out what a hallowcopter is. Also, by using emotive words and phrases they have the power to stir up emotions or, likewise, desensitise. I'm so tired of hearing ..."struggling to come to terms with ..." and such nonsense phrases that when I hear them I tune out. Those in the media must think we're stupid. As for us writers, we'll keep on doing things right even in the face of daily bombardment from the media.

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.