“Confucius summed up the need for right choice when he said: “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what ought to be done remains undone” and as a consequence morals, art, justice and the business of life deteriorate, and “the people will stand about in helpless confusion.”
I was recently fortunate enough to have been sent a link to an excellent piece of writing, one which discusses the virtues and dangers associated with the act of saying – in thought, pen or word – exactly what it is that one means to say.
This very astute piece of writing takes a rather unlikely form – it is a newsletter from the Royal Bank of Canada, written in 1964. The newsletter begins as follows:
“THERE IS MAGIC in words properly used, and to give them this magic is the purpose of discipline of language.”
Whilst I was writing First Steps to Seeing I felt it an obligation, to myself, to my teachers, and to the reader to spend a great deal of effort on making sure that I was being as clear as I possibly could, both in my choice, and use, of words. I attempted to say what was meant, and to mean what was said. Therefore, this beautifully written and wonderfully clear demonstration of ‘saying what one means’ resonated with me deeply. If followed carefully, I believe that it might well serve as practical guide for those who wish to write, or speak, more clearly.
The newsletter can be accessed via the website of the Royal Bank of Canada RBC Newsletter 1964.