That was the dumbest phrase I’d ever heard when I was raising my kids. We’d be at a park or a playground or a preschool playdate, some kid would start having a tantrum, and his mom would use a soothing voice and say, “Use your words so I can understand you.” Sure, the message behind her statement was great, but during a screaming-slapping-hair-pulling-fit, I’m gonna use MY words and they won’t be pretty ones. But I digress.
I was going through a lot of my students’ writings yesterday to post to our class blog. A lot of my students have dropped out of school, some of them never making it past middle school. Many of them are below grade level in reading, and their writing suffers for it. The interesting thing, though, was that ALL of them were able to make themselves understood, even the ones where I had to pay really close attention to follow the points they were making.
All of them were using their words.
Some of the words weren’t ones that I would have chosen, and a few of the words were ones that I make it a point never to use in civilized public. But they were there. Even students who didn’t think they had the talent or ability to string six words together to make a sentence had something worthy to say and I could understand it because I cared about their voices.
If you make your readers care about your voice and about what you have to say, if you can make them care about the words you’re using, they will understand and find it worthwhile.