Words that describe, words that evaluate


Are your words objective and unbiased, or do they judge?

The beauty of well-chosen words is that they convey rich information. We use oral or written language to tell stories, to paint pictures, to help others know, see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the things that we have known, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt.

We do all this through the power of descriptive words. Through description, we can tell readers or listeners about a massive, moss-covered oak stump, on which sat a tiny Yorkshire terrier puppy staring up at us with its head cocked to one side.

But some words go beyond description; they don’t just tell objectively about how things are. Some words are evaluative, and they include judgments about the goodness or badness of something. Through evaluative words, the the puppy becomes adorable.

In this case, the attribute of being adorable is subjective. A different person might say that the puppy looks like something from a mawkish greeting card.

With descriptive words, a car can be expensive. Through evaluative words, it becomes over-priced.

A manager can be energetic, or overbearing.

Writers use both descriptive and evaluative words. Good writers understand the difference, and weigh their words based on this: “Do I want to describe, or evaluate?”

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One Response to Words that describe, words that evaluate

  1. Lars Walker says:

    There’s a classic game of triads (I don’t know what it’s actually called):

    I am principled. You are narrowminded. He is a bigot.

    I am a bon vivant. You overdo it sometimes. He is a drunk.

    I am easygoing. You cut some corners. He is lazy.

    I am spontaneous. You’re unreliable. He is nuts.

    For a woman: I am friendly. You are easy. She’s a slut.

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