The Search Is On For Meaning-Laden Words

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on December 3, 2013

20060319_052I heard a story on the radio yesterday that made me think about the concept of “meaning-laden words.”  The story was about a group of protestors here in D.C.  The anchor read this sentence, stressing the word, “people”:  ”Five hundred people were protesting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial today.”

Now it’s important that they were people, but what’s really important is that there were 500 of them.  This anchor missed the main point of the story by selecting the wrong meaning-laden word.

I define meaning-laden words as the words that you must hear to get the gist of the story.  One way to think of it is that if you pick up the script and only the meaning-laden words stick to the paper, would they tell the story?

Why is this important?  If you’re a voiceover artist reading ad copy, the product name better be one of your meaning-laden words or you’ll have a very unhappy employer.  If you’re a broadcaster, you need to verbally underline words for the listener so they can understand the story amidst all the distractions going on as they listen or watch.

Let’s look at another sentence:  “The quick, brown fox jumped over the fence.”  What’s important to get the meaning?  I’d say, “fox,” “jumped,” “fence.”  It’s nice that the fox is quick and brown, but it’s not necessary to get the meaning of the sentence.

Want to get better in the search for meaning-laden words?  Try taking a script or a newspaper article and underlining the words in a story that carry meaning.  Once you’ve marked them go back and read just those words.  Do they tell the story?  If they do you made the right choices!  Keep this exercise up because it’s a good to develop the ability to find the meaning-laden words quickly.

Interested in learning more about enhancing the meaning of your copy?  There are two whole chapters on this in my ebook, the fifth edition of BROADCAST VOICE HANDBOOK.  Click here and you can download it instantly and keep reading about this.  Plus, it makes a great holiday gift to purchase for a friend (simply email me to arrange to give it as a gift OnlineVoiceCoaching@comcast.net).

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