Words Cannot Express

How many times do we hear the phrase, “Words cannot express” or, “If only I had the words…”?

The complexity of the human situation challenges the fact that the purpose of words is to express this complexity. Every time we say the above phrase, we are not  giving testimony to our depth, but to our frustration in not being able to utilize the language for its very purpose.

The obligation of writers is to utilize every linguistic mechanism available in service to the expression of the human condition. Expression may be all that is due from us; others have the responsibility to use our work in their own  arenas of endeavor. Writers, therefore, have the opportunity to better the human condition in ways they may never imagine.

One never knows who will read your writing or how it will impact the reader. Write to the best of your ability,  and revise, revise, revise.  If you want to call yourself a writer, know that what you write is important, not by virtue of the fact that you wrote it but because it meant so much to you that you felt compelled to share it with people you will never meet.



16 Responses to Words Cannot Express

  1. You’re so right. SO many times I hear that phrase “Word cannot express…” and I’m like that’s what writers are for and I fill myself with determination never to say that.

  2. Marahm says:

    Thanks for reading and commenting on this. I’m surprised more people have not done so. Words can, indeed, express. Witness all of our blogs. Witness the major books througout human history that have influenced humankind. I, too, never want to say, “Words cannot express.”

  3. Susan says:

    There are times when words cannot express, or when words cannot fully express, because within that time and space there are no words, there is the silence, there is something more than words can convey.

    Like those times when it’s said “An angel just came through.” These are times when even when no one is speaking, and the usual household sounds disappear. There is silence … soundlessness, wordlessness.

    Sometimes, it isn’t necessarily that you couldn’t write it … or write it later. It’s simply that when you place words to a thing or experience, the words become a framework, in a sense a boundary in their description of what you are trying to convey.

    Sometimes the best description, the best conveyance is to draw near, but let it be as it is without words.

    It draws out in its own time, words come when it’s time. So during the midst of, there are no words.

  4. Marahm says:

    You are right, Susan. When I wrote this post, I hadn’t yet discovered that words sometimes limit expression by erecting a boundary around a boundless subject.

    Then my father died. It’s been nearly a year, and I have not been able to write about it in any depth. The grief of losing someone as dear as a wonderful father cannot be expressed in words.

    However, I may try to write about it, piecemeal, bit by bit, the only way such an event can be written. I don’t know.

  5. 4ORTHY says:

    salam for all here
    its realy a very soft warm expression when we say words can,t express the real feelings . as susan said the silence will control on every thing and you feel that the time stopped and every thing is calm .and this is the most expression we can feel in that time and its the most great one ! you will feel yr self in a unexpected pleasureand wormth and happiness or sadness .that depends on the situation that we are passing in in that moment.and i think its the right thing to just listen and dream or think or go to the space in your mind to feel the needed feeling to the unlimeted .

  6. HAMID says:

    hmm when one cannot express something in words,tears do.so some sitautions make many of us go speechless.

    thanks for sharing your writings.

  7. Marahm says:

    You are welcome, Hamid, and you are right– tears take over sometimes when words cannot do the job.

  8. flameshaft says:

    I just happened across this. I feel that despite trying to gain the skills to express things with words, there are moments, situations, or feelings that just end up being too shallow if expressed in words. That is my understanding of the phrase “words cannot express.”

    Just my thought.

  9. Marahm says:

    Welcome, flameshaft, and thank you for your comment! I had to smile– the expression “words cannot express” lends itself to convoluted thinking. You say that feelings “… just end up being too shallow if expressed in words,” but I say that the feelings themselves do not become shallow; rather, they are rendered shallow because the writer has not found the exact words with which to express those feelings.

    I know, I know, you meant that certain feelings are beyond words, that they can never be rendered whole by words alone. Certainly, I have had that conviction at times.

    Whether it’s is true or not, I do not know, but the writer’s responsibility is to dig as deeply and broadly as he/she can to render those complex feelings as accurately as possible. It’s a task that does not end, nor should it end. One gets better with time and effort.

  10. eric dalbom says:

    There is a word that mans unable to express in words; I remember looking it up but forgot the word. I have a word journal but apparently it did not get into it. What is it?

  11. Freda Hudson says:

    I think it is more accurate to say “I cannot express” or some variation. As soon as I read the words “words cannot express” I stop reading; if I hear the words, I stop listening. If “words cannot express” then you should remain silent. The very act of writing or speaking means that words _can_ express. Maybe not as eloquently as you’d like — but they do in fact express — they express you.

  12. Marahm says:

    Thank you, Freda, for your comment. Yes– to say, “I cannot express,” is more accurate than to say, “Words cannot express,” but is it possible that some people experience a depth and complexity of emotion that really cannot be expressed in words? I don’t know. All I know is that we have the obligation to use words as best we can because they do express ourselves.

    Eloquence no longer holds the respect it deserves. I wish our schools would reclaim it as one of the most useful skills a person can develop.

  13. john h campbell says:

    Sometimes “words alone cannot express all that our hearts have to confess.” At those times United Methodist Minister and musician John Thornburg’s contemporary hymn reminds us:
    When words alone cannot express
    all that our hearts ache to confess,
    bring music, Alleluia!
    Bring melody and rhythmic fire!
    Bring instruments, bring bells and choir!
    Bring music Alleluia!

  14. Vinny Byrne says:

    Who, what, when, where, and “words”! Just mentioning one’s inability to find the right words to express their feelings, does in fact express their feelings! It valorizes the author’s emotional weight and conveys the message for a situation the recipient already knows about. It’s not unlike the Carly Simon song “Your so Vain” where she sings the accusatory statement that the “themed individual” is being vain if he thinks the song is about him–when in fact–it is about him. And to take this one step further; when most people use the “having no words to…” excuse, it is generally accepted. But for a writer to say he/she hasn’t the ‘right’ words; it’s like a surgeon telling the patient he doesn’t have the ‘right’ surgical tools to operate. It sounds lazy. A writer should never make an admonishment about not having the words for a situation. It’s not only pathetic and unprofessional, it wreaks of pure laziness.

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