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Words, words,words: the importance of reading what's written.

There is great value in a careful reading of a text.
There is great value in a careful reading of a text.
Photo by Pablo Blasquez Dominguez from Getty images

With the advent of the internet, criticism and controversy abound. It seems every week there is a new blog post, article or interview that explodes all over the web and we all have to put in our two cents worth. Some of the concerns that are voiced are valid and accurate, but it seems that much of the vitriol that is spewed may be misguided. There is a sense that much of what can be found on the internet is not much more than gossip, but even more troubling is that much of what can be found is the result of poor reading skills.

To be sure reading is a complex skill to be mastered. It is not just something that ends with figuring out phonics and grammar basics. Words are symbols and symbols may mean many things. The combination of words may produce different images in different people’s minds. Thus creating different interpretations of what the words mean. But it may be possible to curtail some of the controversy that Christians encounter by attempting to read what’s written rather than reading into it.

So how should Christians read responsibly? Whether it is the new Christian living book, a blog post, or scripture itself, a case can be made that a conservative first reading would be the best approach. Start with simple grammar and punctuation rules. What do the words actually mean? What does this sentence mean in light of that sentence? Try to keep your own experience on the side lines while you engage the author’s experience. Try to rephrase the author’s argument in words that they would recognize. Even if you don’t agree with it. Based on the words on the page, is what you think the author said what they really said?

And if you are the one writing it is important to keep in mind that others may come to your work with a different world view. They may want to jump to conclusions that you don’t intend for them to come to. The best way to avoid this is to be as clear and direct as you can be. Pay close attention to simple things like grammar and punctuation. Use a dictionary and thesaurus to make sure you use the best word possible to convey your meaning. The simpler and more concrete you can make your argument, the less people may be liable to push back in ways you don’t intend. Make sure your words are timely and seasoned with salt, but most accurately depict what you want to say.

As readers we should approach an author’s work with grace. Consider the time and effort they took to combine just the right words in just the right way. Whether you agree with them or not should not cause you to want to start throwing punches. If you have questions or concerns it is possible to address them in ways that are not inflammatory. Once you have published something in response to another’s work you can not take it back. It is out there for the world to see. Error should be addressed but in a way that might restore them to a position of righteousness rather than drive them to be defensive of their inaccurate beliefs. Just a little food for thought before commenting on this article.

For further ideas on reading and writing check out the following links.

For an explanation of why reading is so complex click here.

To consider if it is possible to match author’s intent with reader’s interpretation click here.

Here is an example of how important punctuation can be in writing.

If you don’t tend to read a lot in general, here is a blog with some tips for you.