Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

I read many books.  Too many to write reviews or snippets of what I’ve read on this blog, so I choose to highlight what I fall in love with.  One book I’ve recently read, devoured, and fell in love with was Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre.  Having read many books on art, language, and writing, I was skeptical of this book; however I read so many good things about it I couldn’t ignore it.  McEntyre’s approach to caring for words comes with 12 strategies:

Love Words

Tell the Truth

Don’t Tolerate Lies

Read Well

Stay in Conversation

Share Stories

Love the Long Sentence

Practice Poetry

Attend to Translation



Cherish Silence

Through these 12 strategies, McEntyre catches her readers and makes them stop to contemplate words and how we use them today.  Stewardship of language is something that has been overlooked as we see the increase of the use of popular social networking sites and texting.  We need to pause in our busy hectic lives, and think about what we read and the conversations we have.  Are they meaningful? Or are they filled with cliches, empty words, and lies?

This book is fantastic, and while some of the observations and conclusions McEntyre comes to were not new to me, I found that they deepened my convictions.  As my writing teacher would always say when it comes to writing anything there are these three rules, “Absolute. Specific. Concrete.”  We need to become better stewards of our words.

“We say more and more about less and less to more and more people.  E-mail and Facebook multiplied this problem exponentially.  We have traded deep, sustained, intimate conversation for vast and sometimes overwhelming forms and means of ‘communication’.”  Marilyn McEntyre


Words for thought

“Like food, language has been “industrialized”.  Words come to us processed like cheese, depleted of nutrients, flattened and packaged, artificially colored and mass marketed.  And just as it takes a little extra effort and intention to find, buy, eat, and support the production of organic foods, it is a strenuous business to insist on usable, flexible, precise, enlivening language.

That is to say, in the same way that we have commodified and privatized the earth’s resources — land, water, air (and, more pertinently, airwaves) — we have come to accept words as a commercial product.  Just as we have become accustomed to the strip mining done on hillsides just slightly away from public thoroughfares, so we have become accustomed to practices of light camouflage that allow us to forget how the rich soil of lively discourse is being depleted.”

Marilyn Chandler McEntyre

Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies