What a Single Word Can Do

The Washington Post, this morning had a headline that caught my eye–one that demanded that I drop everything else on my docket and publish a post that I had scribbled in my night-time notebook.    I had been waiting to fall asleep, and  thinking about Writing,  and the World, and Worry…and the News Media.

The Post article stated that the recent world summit on climate control, held in Paris last week, nearly got sabotaged by a single word: In the final draft, someone had substituted the word “shall,” for the word “should.”

This gigantic error, if that’s what it was, could have proven monumental.  The Word shall denotes mandatory compliance; should provides a host of wiggle-room and interpretation.   Well happily, they fixed the deal-breaker word and passage of the legislation followed.

There should be a link here…if not please stay tuned.  🙂  https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/anatomy-of-a-deal-how-the-climate-accord-was-won–and-nearly-lost/2015/12/13/2a9b3416-a1df-11e5-b53d-972e2751f433_story.html?wpisrc=nl_rainbow

My poem follows:


Semantic Dilemma

Sometimes when writing
a message of great importance,
designed to affect the very life
of the Universe…

… the missive halts in mid-sentence
to provide time and opportunity
to ponder the intricacies
of grammar and punctuation.

As the fate of the species hangs in the balance,
we pause–or stop short– to contemplate
implications of the use of a colon (or semi-)
or to insert an apostrophe… or elipses.

“Is it shall, or will…?” a dilemma which
has brought many a public meeting to a
screeching halt while consulting
a man of the Law.

To complicate the process of proper transcription
is the issue of gender.  Is it “he, she, or they?”
The cause of Political Correctness
directly affects what separates or connects us.


18 thoughts on “What a Single Word Can Do

    1. fortunately for the world I don’t have too much time to think before falling asleep. I used to be secretary of our city planning and zoning boards, and the shall-will dilemma of some members always pleased me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think Don is dumb by a long shot. He just runs those ideas of his up the flag-pole so to speak and sees who salutes. He has a lot of followers who seem to go for his various outrageous positions.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Shall implies will (the will to choose and to act). Should implies obligation (though not necessarily with a promise to action). Both fine words when used rightly. I appreciate the nuances. I believe many who read and write here do, too. Thanks for writing about selecting the good word.


    1. nuances…I am a great fan. Once I took a French For Proficiency Reading class, and much to my chagrin I got a B on the final, with a note to the effect that my translations were beautiful, but I was too slow and worried about the accuracy–rather than quantity. Just write it out, even if its’ wrong…. lol


    2. our Law Director was sort of THE MAN to our council and committee members. LOL There is WILL as in “yes, I will do that.” And WILL as in “I would like to do that, but I just don’t have the will to do it.” Interesting words…I wonder if the useage is regional?


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