If you’re faced with a decision or trying to understand an issue, you don’t want conflicting information from a bunch of weaselly sources. Unclear and dishonest language isn’t just a drain on the economy, it’s something I take personally.
Every written and spoken statement either helps or misleads people. This goes for every email, blog, podcast, Tweet, news article and so forth. Language either provides clearly-stated, reliable information, or it confuses people. In that sense, there is no neutrality in language.
However informal, whatever the medium of communication, all language is either basically prosocial or antisocial. Language either helps or misleads people trying to solve problems, understand issues or satisfy needs. It either dispels or reinforces misconceptions. You can’t be 97 percent authentic or truthful; as soon as you compromise on either of those values it taints the entire discussion.
Maybe I’m neurotic, but I’m right!
All language is either a service or a disservice to the audience and, by extension, society.
On any given day, the stated purpose of my writing may be to strengthen a brand, sell a service, help people with a DIY project or explain how a new regulation will impact an industry. Truth and clarity serve all of these objectives and, at the same time, benefit society.
This isn’t a matter of subordinating business objectives to social ones. In my view, they can be mutually reinforcing. I always see the social value in what I create or I wouldn’t do it.
The Economist warned last January that “In the future, ‘fake news’ put together with the aid of artificial intelligence will be so realistic that even the best-resourced and most professional news organization will be hard pressed to tell the difference between the real and the made-up sort.” As a consumer, you may already feel that way with something as simple as choosing a toothbrush.
People who make the effort to research and understand any issue have a right not to be misled. If it’s a delicate or confidential subject, people have a right to deny information. But they have no right to lie or obfuscate. Ethics aside, it’s a dumb marketing strategy.
I love rolling my sleeves up, stripping complex topics down to their core elements and building them back up into stories people can understand. High-quality content can improve society by helping people understand the world and one another. It can also make businesses much more profitable.
That’s why I write.
All language has a societal impact and that impact is either negative or positive.