The Power of Itty Bitty Words

Have you ever thought about the difference one word can make? Specifically a small word? Pause to think about it for a moment. Now, let’s even get more specific – how about a preposition? Prepositions, although not necessarily thought of as the most important words in a sentence, are small words that pack a BIG punch. Yet most of us barely contemplate them as we say them. They might almost be considered filler words. But…wait…might these simple words really matter? Maybe. Let’s first define these commonly used words. There are about 150 prepositions in the English language. And while prepositions might be subtle, they are often the glue that helps hold sentences together. They link key words – think nouns and verbs – together. Prepositions help us understand the relationship or connection between other words, offering us the opportunity for our sentences to make sense. Try making a few sentences and see how many you can make without using a preposition. Go ahead…we’ll wait while you complete this exercise. You’re back already? It’s tough to hold things together without something – like glue – that makes them stick. They’re clarifiers as they help us understand the relationship or location of one thing to another.

Lightning! Storms! Torrential rain!  Where??? Behind you! Or In front of you! sets a very different tone than On the opposite coast. Or In the next state.

See how helpful our prepositions are. Picture hearing only the first line of words. How would you react? It would be difficult to know exactly what to do, right? It’s apparent that prepositions are vitally important to our ability to communicate effectively. Words such as at, for, from, in, of, on, through, to and with are so commonly said that we use them without thinking about them. Prepositions convey concepts like direction, location, time along with helping us to compare things. Think of the contrast in these sentence pairs.

We worked from strength or we worked for strength.

We serve from blessing or we serve for blessing.

We walked through the door or we walked into the door.

What’s the big deal over these tiny words? To make a point. One so-called little word can make all the difference in how what you say is understood. If these tiny words make such a huge difference in what we say, imagine what some of our bigger words and sentences mean to others. And to ourselves. Let’s contrast these sentences:

I can’t do this – I always say the wrong thing. Vs. I’m going to observe others’ interactions and identify some opportunities for improvement.

Why does she have all the good friends? Nobody likes to hang out with me. Vs. What are some things I can do to be a better friend?

Don’t try again; you failed and you should be embarrassed. Vs. If Dr. Seuss was rejected 27 times before he found a publisher and Walt Disney received 300 rejections for Mickey Mouse, then I can get back up and try again.

I never do a good job when I’m presenting – I’m always sooo nervous. Vs. How can I make sure my presentation rocks?

Our words matter. To those around us. To ourselves. Let’s make our words matter for good. A quote attributed to Frank Outlaw sums it up: Watch your thoughts, they become words; watch your words, they become actions; watch your actions, they become habits; watch your habits, they become character; watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. Who knew how much little words matter?