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Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash

Today, word choice matters, not only at the highest levels of political power in our country, but in our everyday speech, no matter our political persuasion or good intentions. Since the election of Donald Trump, we have seen an increase in hate speech everywhere from public gatherings to social media channels.

The past two months have been especially traumatic for so many groups, including the Latinx community who were targeted by a gunman in El Paso after being called "illegal invaders" of this country; immigrants who were told to "go back where they came from"; and journalists who were deemed disseminators of "evil propaganda" by our president.

These examples are enough for us to make the case, as some already have, that words matter more than ever in the current American public discourse. We must, however, all be responsible for the intentions of our speech (or tweets) and also how they are perceived.

Often, even those of us with the best intentions or the most 'woke' social justice warriors among us, use terms that are unknowingly othering, that contribute to long standing societal stereotypes or that embed violence into our speech.

While it is impossible to ignore the rhetoric stemming from the most powerful office in the land, that must not hinder each of our efforts to employ empathy and respect in the pursuit of a more just and equitable society.

For our team at Elle Communications, word choice is arguably the most important part of each of our days as we work to shape messaging with and for activists, advocates, entrepreneurs, companies, nonprofits, and other groups striving to create positive change in our country and our world.

Here are four things to consider when thinking about the ways in which we choose to move through this world and the words that we use along the way.

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Clapter

In Mike Sacks’ wonderful new book Poking a Dead Frog: Interviews with Today’s Top Comedy Writers, the author asks longtime Saturday Night Live head writer James Downey for a comedy pet peeve. Downey responds, “What has bothered me most for the last few years is that kind of lazy, political comedy, very safe but always pretending to be brave, that usually gets what my colleague Seth Meyers calls ‘clapter.’ Clapter is that earnest applause, with a few ‘whoops’ thrown in, that lets you know the audience agrees with you, but what you just said wasn’t funny enough to actually make them laugh.”

In Mike Sacks’ wonderful new book Poking a Dead Frog: Interviews with Today’s Top Comedy Writers, the author asks longtime Saturday Night Live head writer James Downey for a comedy pet peeve. Downey responds, “What has bothered me most for the last few years is that kind of lazy, political comedy, very safe but always pretending to be brave, that usually gets what my colleague Seth Meyers calls ‘clapter.’ Clapter is that earnest applause, with a few ‘whoops’ thrown in, that lets you know the audience agrees with you, but what you just said wasn’t funny enough to actually make them laugh.”

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Features

Help Build a Vibrantly Multilingual World

This tremendous richness of human linguistic diversity took thousands of years to develop, yet it is rapidly disappearing.


Most people don’t know this, but there are a lot more languages spoken in the world than the ones we hear every day. In fact, there are around 7,000 different languages, and each one tells a part of the story of our human experience on Planet Earth.

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