The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Columns

September 3, 2013

Emmett Dulaney: Choosing words carefully

It can be easy to forget just how powerful individual words can be. When they are properly chosen, words have the ability to galvanize readers and stimulate their thoughts in one direction – either for a greater good or at least a cause. Improperly chosen, however, a single word has the power to cause readers to disengage and isolate.

To illustrate this basic principle, I recently borrowed a case from the 7th edition of a classic business text: “The Ethics of Management: A Multidisciplinary Approach” by LaRue Hosmer. Among the many cases in the book, there is one of 894 words that was perfectly suited for the experiment. It is about a young woman who is in her first real job and is asked to ship potentially bug-infested food products to stores they would not normally go to so that the company can recover at least some of its expenses. Three times in that sea of text (one-third of 1 percent), the word “ghetto” is used to describe the location where the stores reside that the buyer, Maria Castellani, wants to send them to.

I asked 11 students to read the case and answer three questions. I also asked another 11 to do the same but the account of the case the other half read had all three occurrences of the word “ghetto” changed to “inner city.” The three questions answered were Likert-type; asking them to pick a number between one and five for each question using the scale: 5 = strongly agree, 4 = agree, 3 = neither agree nor disagree, 2 = disagree, and 1 = strongly disagree. Each of the questions, and the average of the answers for each group, is shown in the following table:

Questions with “Ghetto” and then “Inner City”: I trust Maria’s judgment, 1.4, 2.09; Maria has a lot of experience and usually knows best, 2.5, 3.27; Maria knows best in this situation, 1.3, 1.72.

Text Only
Columns
Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Do you think the community places a high enough value on education?

Yes
Somewhat
No
Not sure
     View Results