A Way With Words | Mark’s Remarks


Believe it or not, I took journalism courses and was editor of my high school newspaper. I was blessed to have, for at least a couple of years, the legendary Margaret Spence Thacker (known as MST) as my journalism teacher and newspaper advisor. She had been teaching even before my parents were in high school, and she had good ‘ol basic rules for what type of writing was allowed in a newspaper. She had taught many other courses over the years, including English and Latin.

Our paper, and many of the writers, won Southern Illinois School Press Association awards due to her guidance. I once won an award for a little feature I had written, knowing full well it was Mrs. Thacker’s editing that probably won it for me.

Journalism was a good step for me, and it helped me get a grasp on words, how things sound, and how to make things “flow” when I write. Some of you who have read this column may say “Really?” Yes, I tend to break rules when I write this column. Mrs. Thacker would cringe if she were to read some of them.

We had rules for writing that many folks wouldn’t even notice these days. Mrs. Thacker had pet peeves, too.  She could not stand the phrase “and a good time was had by all.” I’m sure it was because the phrase was overused and lacked detail.  Any time I see it in print, I think of MST.

Recently, my good friend started a company which specializes in helping businesses write good content for websites, newsletters and such. She asked me if I would do some writing for her company. Flattered and knowing I might be able to make a little money to help feed my family, I naturally said yes.

I’ve been thinking a lot the past few days about how long I’ve been dealing with “making things sound better.” There have been many hours spent rewriting and fretting over the best way to say something.

I have had people read over my work time and time again.  If I write an email, I read it several times before I send it. My columns could probably be turned in long before the deadline if I weren’t so worried about how it all sounds.

Even with close inspection, I often re-read the printed column and notice I made some grammatical errors or I see a way I could have worded it better.

Our daughter, Mira, will turn 5 in a few short weeks. It’s amazing to me. Every time summer rolls around, I think of those few short weeks in which we’d be up during those summer nights, rocking or feeding or diapering. Now, she sleeps in her own room and wants to do a bunch of things by herself.

Thankfully, though, she is still saying some of the cute little things we have always loved. I know it’s only a matter of time before she starts pronouncing words correctly and giving up her own phraseology for the correct way of saying things. I’m hanging on to all of my favorites, for now.

Lately, I’ve mourned the loss of “penny toes.” You see, this was what she once called a “pony tail.” When she was smaller, she would ask her mother to put her hair in a “penny toe” on a particularly hot day when her hair was sticking to her neck. The other day, I sadly heard her calling it a “pony tail.”

We still have some of the cute stuff. She still sings Happy Birthday with a new spin. In the very last line of the song, she sings “Happy Birthday to dear Daddy” or something like that.  The addition of the word “to” is endearing, isn’t it?

The boys have been on a church trip for about a week, and their little sister has missed them. Always ready to host a party, she has planned a party for them when they return. She has coerced her mother into making a cake and plans to make a sign. Instead of the boring old “Welcome Home” party, she has dubbed the celebration a “Happy Come Home Day.” I like it.

My daughter does not worry about the correct way to say things. I doubt, if she could already write long stories, she would care too much about how something sounds. Her way of speaking and getting her point across is to just share what is in her heart. She says things as she feels them. Most people know what she means, and her way of saying things is often sweeter and more effective than traditional wording.

“Mira-speak,” if you will.

It makes me wonder if life would better if we didn’t worry too much about how things are said. What if we were more like little ones, still learning to communicate?

Might be interesting.

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