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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Shel Horowitz Shares Words that Influence

Shel Horowitz and I share an interest in the environment, marketing, and writing and those interests are reflected in his guest post below. But look! We editors can learn from it, too! Those interested in those topics should take a minute to explore his Web site for his newsletter and books. And, Shel suggests, I hope you'll share your own banished words and phrases. 

Vocabulary is an important thing; it’s part of framing. I do believe that the words we use influence the outcomes we get. I want to share with you a few choice words and phrases that I either avoid altogether or use only to make a point—and yes, I recognize the irony that I’m dedicating my entire feature article to them—but only as a teaching exercise.

Sustainable/Sustainability: These words are everywhere in the green business world. But they talk about staying where we are. My vision takes us well beyond the status quo to a world that’s actively healing itself—reversing catastrophic climate change, turning hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace.

Global Warming: Oh, it sounds so warm and comfortable and fuzzy and tender! While I don’t spend a lot of time jumping up and down about the need to change human patterns that influence climate—preferring to use the power of enlightened self interest to effect change, rather than guilt and shame—when I do, I refer to “catastrophic climate change.”

Killing It/Crushing It: I’m not interested in killing or crushing things, people, or organizations. I don’t see my success as require anyone else’s failure. I can thrive without hurting others, and you can too.

Niggardly: While I’ve looked at the origins of both words and they actually have nothing in common linguistically, I will never use that term other than to say why I don’t use it—because it sounds far too close to a nasty word to describe black people, and I don’t want to put out any kind of racist vibe.

Sucks (as a negative descriptor): This one came into use decades ago as an anti-gay-male slur, derived from a longer word that begins with “c.” ‘Nuff said.

Gendered pronouns to represent all people: I work toward gender-neutral language. Sometimes, because it’s easier than saying “he or she” or “his or her,” I’ll alternate. The first paragraph might use she and her, while the next switches to he, his, and him. Or I’ll write a paragraph in the plural, using words like “people,” “they,” and “their”—but grammatically, this requires that everything else is plural too. It’s not a construction I use often.

That’s Impossible: This is a special case, because actually I use this one in my speeches, writing, and media interviews—but I use it to prove its opposite. I talk about “impossible” as “the red flag in front of the bull,” defying me to prove it wrong. My most popular (and I think best) presentation is called “Impossible is a Dare” and it builds from this magnificent quote by Muhammad Ali:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” 

I use that same quote as a chapter title in my 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, and as the theme for my most popular talk. I feel similarly about Can’t.What are your banished words and phrases?(With thanks to Marilyn Jenett and George Lakoff)


Shel Horowitz works with writers who'd like to be well-published, well-marketed authors--and with businesses that want to thrive while creating and marketing products and services that heal the world. His ten books include Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World -  and Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers To discuss your book or transformational business project with shel, contact him at 413-586-2388 (8 a.m. to 10 p.m. US Eastern Time), shel at,  Learn more about him and share:

Twitter: @Shel Horowitz
Watch (and please share) my TEDx Talk,
"Impossible is a Dare: Business for a Better World" * 413-586-2388

 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults, and speaks on issues of writing and publishing. Find her at Find the second edition of her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor: Do-it-yourself editing secrets for authors: From your query letter to final manuscript to the marketing of your bestseller. (HowToDoItFrugally Series of Books for Writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at , where writers find lists and other helps including , Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her SharingingwithWriters blog. She tweets writers' resources at . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:


Shel Horowitz, author, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green said...

Thanks for sharing my article, Carolyn. Looks good!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thank you, Shel! You are today's Renaissance man.

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