Ifs, ands, ors, buts

It’s incredibly important to be careful with conjunctions, or any connective words. What seems to be a word of trivial importance can throw off the feeling of what one is trying to convey.

Years ago I heard a cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ and someone took liberty with the lyric.

Instead of singing…

It’s been too hard livin’
But I’m afraid to die

they changed it to…

It’s been too hard livin’
And I’m afraid to die

That one little word ruins the impact of the couplet. One could argue they practically mean the same thing but the undercurrent changes. The latter example tacks on “I’m afraid to die” like it’s an aside. The word and tarnishes the connection between the stanzas.

The original however connects the two thoughts. Where are they to go from this point? It’s this dreadful feeling, as if stuck in limbo. Neither of the options are good, but they’re stuck. That use of ‘and’ changed a lyric so incredibly beautiful, so poignant and precise, into just a lyric.

Analyze your words. Why are you saying and instead of but? or vice versa? Might, or could? All word choices; Always or often? As silly as this sounds, always means always and often means often.

Don’t trivialize a single word you write, don’t assume it’s of little importance, because it’s part of a whole. Every word sets up the meaning and usage of the following ones.

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