>> Article Archives >> Marketing Communications >> Lincoln, Mark Twain & Lightning: Choice Words On Word Choice

Marketing Communications
Lincoln, Mark Twain & Lightning: Choice Words On Word Choice
By Ernest Nicastro, Positive Response

Follow these recommendations and while your words might not make history, they will be duly noted, better remembered - and most importantly, more effective.

"Eighty-seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation...."
- The Gettysburg Address

Chances are your reaction to the above "quote" is something along the lines of, "No, no, no!  You're wrong, wrong, wrong!" And, of course, you would be right. Because Lincoln was not only a great leader, he was a great writer. So instead of beginning his Gettysburg Address with a cold, lifeless number, he opens on a prayerful note with a turn of phrase adapted from the 90th Psalm of the King James Bible: "Four score and seven."

Clearly, Lincoln knew the difference between the almost right word - and, the RIGHT word. A distinction famously defined by Mark Twain some 25 years later as: "the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." With that thought in mind, in today's article I'm going to offer you a few choice words on word choice to help you get more of the right words into your communications. And, make your writing more effective.

Let's start by looking at the sports section of my local daily, The Columbus Dispatch. In a recent story, AP reporter Tim Reynolds describes Dick Vitale's reaction to being voted into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame. Vitale, writes Reynolds, "admitted he 'cried like a baby' upon learning he was induced."

Now maybe Vitale's use of the word baby clouded the writer's thinking. Because induced is so NOT the right word.

Which leads us to today's big (but hardly revolutionary) idea:
For more effective word choice think harder about the words you choose.
For example, while it's obvious that Mr. Reynolds made the wrong choice, what about the people who penned these lines?
  • This is literally the equivalent of Microsoft coming to your house and locking a CD in your car CD player.
  • More CIOs are disinterested in Linux
  • Given the enormity of the job, it

    Ernest Nicastro, a direct marketing consultant, copywriter and lead-generation specialist, heads up Positive Response, an award-winning marketing firm specializing in B-to-B marketing and lead-generation. For your FREE copy of the Positive Response Special Report, 77 Sure-Fire Marketing Tips Guaranteed To Boost Results, email Ernest (subject line Tips) at or, contact him by phone at 614.747.2256. For more information visit

    More articles by Ernest Nicastro
    More articles on Marketing Communications