E. Jean Carroll in Court

The big news story this week was the jury verdict against former President Donald J. Trump. E. Jean Carroll sued Trump for defamation  Рand won a five-million-dollar settlement. The case goes back to 2019, when Carroll claimed that Trump had raped her in a New York City department store.

What does all of this have to do with writing? Apparently very little – until you read a New York Times article about the clothes that Carroll wore in the courtroom. Journalist Vanessa Friedman makes the point that Carroll carefully chose outfits that sent a message about who she was: a serious person who doesn’t seek attention for its own sake.

Here’s how Friedman explains it:

Like all victims of sexual assault who take their cases to trial, her body was at the heart of the case. What she put on that body, how she presented it, mattered.

Words – like clothing – don’t just send a message: they are a message. Jumbled words point to a jumbled brain – even if you’re a genius who was experiencing a momentary lapse. Careless editing points to a careless person – even if you were in a time crunch for good reasons.

I know all about lapses. I make plenty of mistakes in my own writing, and I don’t always catch them. Nobody’s perfect. But I strive mightily to showcase my own competence and professionalism, for a very good reason. I know I have the power to control the message my words are sending.¬† That message matters – and I choose to wield that power every time I sit down to write.

Photo of E. Jean Carroll

Picture of E. Jean Carroll courtesy of Julieannesmo
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