A Word's Agency

by Mary Cadwallader on Aug 11, 2014 8:55:00 AM

DictionaryCommunication-Cover

(Agency, noun: A thing or person that acts to produce a particular result. O.E.D.)

Words have a powerful agency in my profession, but my personal affection for words was honed long before me by generations of folks who enjoyed a bit of debating, reading and singing. 

Whether it is a song lyric, a poem, or a single word well placed, a solid word choice is a delight.  Professional communicators share the same aspiration to connect, but it is a tricky thing as there are so many word options, but oh-so-few exacting ways to communicate clearly (add technology to the mix and it really gets interesting). I don’t know the statistics, but the percentage of words we actually use versus the amount of known words at our disposal is probably miniscule. Despite this untapped reservoir of “exacting” words, there is still much to be done with the ones we know and use on a regular basis. In fact, I recently had the delight of seeing a familiar word in a new light.

I was listening to a talk the other day about making hard choices. The speaker’s premise is that there is no “right” choice, but that each option has its own merits and drawbacks. She suggested that the concept of “hard” dissipates when one puts their “personal agency” behind the decision. Agency, the word jumped right out at me, not that I’m not familiar with its numerous meanings, but here it is being used with powerful force. Think of all the alternatives that would describe this struggle with indecision, but fall terribly short of the mark once “agency” is considered; “perspective,” “personal choice,” “opinion,” etc. all would have passed but “agency” truly nails it by demonstrating not just a thought or decision, but the individual’s deep sense of “right” plus the intended action to make the choice.

Of course, it is not lost on me that I work in an agency and it does give me pause to think of how this powerful, active and personal word transfers to being a member of a group of “agents” taking action for ourselves and for our clients.  We all bring our personal agency to what we do everyday. I love the fact that this one word seen in another context made me stop and reflect a little more deeply on what I and my peers do every day-pretty cool.

Agency for all-

S. T. Coleridge On Constit. Church & State 140   The State shall leave the largest portion of personal free agency to each of its citizens, that is compatible with the free agency of all. (O.E.D)

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About Mary Cadwallader

Mary has over 25 years of experience in technology-industry marketing and public relations. Starting in the engineering workstation marketplace with Data General Corporation and Apollo Computer, Mary has been responsible for all aspects of marketing and public relations from strategic planning through execution, including strategic account management, public relations and marketing program development, social media planning, development and management, and editorial outreach.