In last week’s post, I reviewed Acceptable Words, a book for prayers for and by writers. As I mentioned in my review, this book has made me think differently about many aspects of writing. I had no idea this book would generate so many new ideas to meditate over. It’s also giving me a lot of new ideas for things to write about.
Defining “Acceptable Words”
I was intrigued by the expression “acceptable words,” so I decided to go to the Bible Study Tools website and search for that phrase. I used King James Version since that was the translation used by the authors of the devotional book. There are only two verses in the whole KJV that mention acceptable words.
The first is Psalm 19:14, the verse the book is based on.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (KJV)
It’s clear to me that Psalm 19:14 is a prayer that the writer’s words will be acceptable to God. In the various translations, where the word “acceptable” is not used, the word “pleasing” is the choice. Check out the various translations in Bible Study Tools Parallel Bible feature for Psalm 19:14.
Ecclesiastes 12:10 is the other verse mentioning “acceptable words.”
The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. Ecclesiastes 12:10 (KJV).
This verse comes near the end of the Ecclesiastes. For context, read all of Chapter 12. The writer has been wondering what life is all about, and he begins to reach his conclusion in this chapter. In verse 10, the writer struggles to find the right words to express his message. The KJV says the preacher is searching for acceptable words. However, other translations do not use “acceptable.” Instead, they use “pleasing,” “delightful,” and “comforting,” just to name a few. See alternate translations here. Notice that NIV says “just the right words.” See? Every writer has that problem!
In Psalm 19:14, the writer prays for his words to be acceptable to God. In Ecclesiastes, the writer has the reader or listener in mind. He must choose acceptable (or just the right words) to interest his reader and make his message clear. There you are, writers. Two verses admonish us to choose our words carefully, each having a slightly different insight for us as writers.
Words Acceptable to God
In choosing our words, we pray that they will be:
- Words that express God’s truth.
- Words that give the writer’s honest opinion.
- Words that share the writer’s relationship with God so that others will want a relationship, too.
Words Acceptable to Readers
Communication is a two-way street. To interest readers, let’s choose words:
- Contained in a genre that attracts readers’ attention (marketing).
- In language and format readers will easily understand.
- With economy so that we don’t lose readers’ attention with bloated, flowery language.
We want our words to be acceptable to both God and the reader. The writer of Ecclesiastes sums it up in the last verse of the chapter.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. Ecclesiastes 12:13 (KJV)
Fear (or be in awe of) God. Keep the commandments that guide us in our interactions with others. Can I get an “amen?”
Readers, you’re welcome to comment on this post and share any insights you have on acceptable words. If you receive this post via email, you must click on the post title to get to my site. Then, scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”