The power of words in times of crisis — Why words and language matter

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Politicians, activists, advertisers and others understand how carefully-crafted messages hold the power of persuasion. How can words harm, help, or heal? How can language inspire? This resource is appropriate for 14–19-year-old learners.

Words are the building blocks of language and communication. Successful and effective communication requires carefully choosing words and paying attention to context, audience and purpose.

In times of crisis, words and language matter. They are important in helping us make sense of complex issues. Words and the language used in messages also hold the power to persuade us to think about an issue in a particular way and how we act in response to that issue.

Consider the following questions:

  • What is the situation and where and how will the message be delivered?
  • Who is the intended audience for the message and who is delivering it?
  • Why is the message important and what effect is it supposed to have on the audience?

The following activities can be used with young people to explore why words and language matter:

Do words have the power to win wars

The power of propaganda

Anthems and protest songs

The power of language to inspire action