A tribute to Noah and how little squiggles could have a negative impact on your business.

Much to my chagrin, the written word is not appreciated nearly as much as it used to be.

Writing and reading is something we take for granted. It's two blessings that we've demoted to the status of ordinary, where once it was revered.

Nothing miraculous; nothing special; just you, making sense of a bunch of squiggly marks arranged in some strange horizontal pattern.

And that's sad, for the written word is powerful.

It takes a lot of time to craft sentences from these peculiar symbols.

Not to mention the work of unsung heroes that not even a Wikipedia search tells you much about; those silly men and women who spend their lives creating things like dictionaries. Lexicographers, I believe they're called.

I mean, who uses a dictionary, any ways? (In the same class you'll find the thesaurus, which sounds like a dinosaur.)

But were it not for this strange breed of human being, you'd not have the ability to forget what you've just scanned through on the internet.

Your LOLZ memes would not have existed. Your Facebook feed, inundated with Dalai Lama quotes and feel-good sayings, would have remained an indecipherable mass of gobbledygook. (In fact, some people's Facebook pages are just that.)

And so it's only fitting to look at one of the greatest men of linguistic history. No, not Julia Child (she wasn't a man). I said linguistics, not linguini.

I'm talking about Noah Webster, the man who took inspiration from his biblical namesake and built an enormous thing. In his case, a book. (Not sure whether the book floated as well as the boat, but that's beside the point.)

Noah Webster was born on 16 October, 1758.

It took him 28 years to complete Webster's American Dictionary, a task he prepared for by learning 26 languages.

The final draft of his masterpiece contained 70,000 words, 30,000 words more than Samuel Johnson's dictionary a century earlier, and more than any other dictionary in history up until that time.

One in every six of the words in his dictionary had never been listed in a dictionary before.

He added Americanisms to his dictionary. Words such as hickory, skunk, chowder and applesauce received a home.

He used the opportunity to Americanise certain words' spelling, many of which were accepted, such as color, honor and center. Some weren't, however. Words like wimmen, tung and dawter. (Thank goodness!)

To see more of his "forgotten" words, see the entertaining article at Huffington Post.

Noah Webster never quite received due honour. Despite every effort he managed to sell only a small number of the first edition of his dictionary. To fund a second edition he mortgaged his house.

That's how important his language was to him.

He died at age 84, and like van Gogh, only found recognition postmortem.

But why this post about lexicographers, dinosaurs and squiggly things?

Because words are important!

Unfortunately it's one of those things that's hard to sell: the importance of using the right words on your website, brochures, pamphlets and other marketing materials.

If you're the owner of an accommodation establishment, your words, if used incorrectly, could cause a lot of anger. Just take a look at Trip Advisor, for instance. Accommodation owners advertise one thing but patrons receive another. In the end, if the accommodation owner told the truth on his website, he'd have spared himself a lot of embarrassment. Granted, he wouldn't have made the sale, but a non-sale is to be preferred to selling something that isn't and running the risk of damaging your good name.

Furthermore, how many phonecalls are made because of misunderstandings? Someone sees something in your marketing material and makes a call, not to make a booking, but to try and make sense of what you're saying.

Confusion is the mother of frustration.

"But I don't have time to waste on nonsense like this. I'd rather the person sees something—even if it's not quite accurate—and gives me a call. I'll explain over the phone."

So you're a liar.

If integrity's not your bag, then by all means, suffer the consequences.

My suggestion, however, is to spend more time (accurately) articulating your offer on your marketing materials, and less time fighting fires. Customer: But your website says it's a five star room. Owner: It is. My daughter's adding the final star now.