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Words are not magic

Oct 12, 2022 | Insights

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Words are powerful and are there for you to use, make a difference, and put your mark on the world, so embrace them.
On the face of it, Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett’s sixth Discworld novel, is a classic story of a king wrongly overthrown. The true infant heir to the throne is whisked away to grow up with a troupe of actors. After the subsequent downfall of the tyrant, he is replaced by…

That will spoil the story if you haven’t read the book.

I recently listened to the excellent new audio edition of Wyrd Sisters with an afterword by novelist Joanne Harris. Harris identifies the traditional ingredients of literature in the story: the battle between good and evil, the quest, and the hero searching for his destiny.

“Words are the true magic.”

Harris furthermore argues that Pratchett also writes on a deeper level. The underlying premise of Wyrd Sisters “is that words are the true magic, words that obfuscate and enthral, that provoke and challenge.” Words are described by Harris as the ultimate power, whether they be the words of a fool or a king. Words, like magic, have a transformative quality.

As if to prove the point, Pratchett interlaces his story with references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth.

In the real world, magic does not exist. Words, however, are there for everyone to use to transform the world. I use them, as do you and the thousands who write in blogs, books, film scripts and daily papers. Words can persuade and entertain. They can make others laugh or cry, wound or bring comfort. Words are powerful and magical – as long as you get them right.

When discussing a forthcoming play, Eric Morecambe said to Ernie Wise, “It’s not just knowing the words; you have to get them in the right order”. Oh, how true. Knowing the right words can add so much to a piece of writing, whilst getting the words in the wrong order can sink your ship.

The power of words to transform

So good language is vital if you want to make a difference in the world. It does not matter if you use short blogs, video scripts, long articles or an entire book to communicate your message.

Today, you probably write in a digital app and publish in a digital medium. Good writing is, therefore, even more critical, as well-written content is more likely to be picked up and shared by search engines. Though these remain important, Google’s algorithms are now more interested in well-written content than technical tricks such as keywords, links and headings.

Words are there for you to use, make a difference, and put your mark on the world, so embrace them, and if you want some help, download our guide to writing English that gets read and shared.


Photo by Digital Content Writers India on Unsplash


Pratchett, T. (2008). Wyrd Sisters. Paw Prints.

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