Ever since I was eight years old and read Charlotte’s Web, a children’s novel written by American author E.B. White, it has remained one of my favorite books. I read it to my children and to my classroom when I was a teacher years ago. If you haven’t read it, you must get it immediately no matter how old you are for while it is considered a classic in the world of children’s literature, it is a book that adults will enjoy as much as children. I am not sure anyone, young or old, can read this book without breaking down in tears at the end.
The story is about a true friendship between a pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte. We first meet Wilbur when he becomes the pet of Fern, the little girl who lives on the farm. Fern loves Wilbur and spends lots of time with him in the barnyard. However, as she grows older, she loses interest and Wilbur becomes lonely until Charlotte, a grey spider living in the barn, tells him she will be his friend. The barnyard is soon buzzing when it learns that Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered. Charlotte, in an effort to save her friend, comes up with the idea to write messages in her web that praise Wilbur’s special qualities, thinking that if she can make him famous he won’t be killed. Soon, words like “terrific,” “radiant” “some pig,” and “humble” are woven into the web for all to see, and as predicted, Wilbur’s specialness is noted throughout the county and he is saved. In fact, he even wins a prize at the County Fair just for being a ‘special’ pig.
Now, while this book is definitely about the beauty of friendship, it is also about the power of words. I can’t help but think the author, E.B. White, had that in mind as he wrote it. If anyone understands the importance of well-chosen words, White did. He also co-authored Elements of Style, a classic writing style guide that anyone of us who has taken an English class has been instructed to read. White knew that words give great meaning to what we believe, the way we frame our thoughts and ultimately the choices we make.
In the wonderful world of marketing and public relations, words are our magic. They can differentiate one company from another, influence decisions and have the power to make a company—or person—famous or infamous depending on how they are used.
So the reality is people believe what they read—which makes it very important which words we choose, and how they are used. There is a real psychology behind them. Just as in the case of Wilbur, if you want your company recognized as one worth being around, choose clear, concise words that differentiate your company or product. Words that make it easy for your prospects or customer to know what makes your company or product “terrific.” And then, of course, place them where everyone can see them.