The 'L' Word - Overused or Overrated?

Friday, July 18, 2008
by LuAnn Schindler

I love my husband.

I love my family and friends.

I love nachos with jalepeno peppers piled high on top of the melted cheese served with a side of guac.

In each of the sentences above, there is a distinct degree of difference in the meaning of the word "love". In sentence number one, I love my husband; he is my life partner and I trust him completely.

In sentence number two, I love my family and friends, but it is not the same kind of love expressed in sentence number one. These are caring relationships too, but they don't elicit the same feelings as the love expressed in the first sentence.

Sentence number three stands apart from the others. Why? OK, I admit that I don't really love nachos; I enjoy eating them. I like them. And no, I'm not going to marry them (the proverbial answer to the question always asked by my kids).

My "love" for nachos provided new insight into amor. In a query, I used sentence number three to illustrate a point about cravings. A few weeks later, I received an offer from the editor; however, she had "the talk" with me about using the 'L' word. And after contemplating her words, I have to agree: the 'L' word is overused and therefore, it becomes overrated because one can never truly tune in on the intended degree of love.

When writers constantly use the word "love" as an expression when the real intent focuses on liking something, the true meaning of the word losses significance. In a culture that loves pizza, loves how a certain pair of jeans make us look in the mirror, and loves celebrity gossip, perhaps we, as writers, need to take that editor's words to heart.

I decided to experiment with the editor's premise. After perusing a copy of a popular woman's magazine targeted at 20-somethings, I found 78 instances of the word "love" in articles, headlines, and captions. The word was only used correctly four times. Love loses its impact when you are bombarded with it.

One of my college English profs used to bark at my creative writing class, "Write what you mean." By using accurate words that show the emotional connection we're establishing with the topic we're writing about, our writing will only become better. And readers will certainly like it.


Anonymous said...

I love this post! Oops... what I meant to say is: This post is a very good reminder about the power of words, and to use them as literally as possible.

Unfortunately, if I were to highlight the word "love" in yellow on my blog, the text would ight up brighter than a New York taxi.

*Sorry for the double post. I accidentally sent the first one before checking for typos.

Joanne said...

It's so true. Not all emotional connections are "love." As writers, by communicating clearly our intent, the reader better relates and more easily enters the story.

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