Guest Post – Mike Smith
What’s a word worth? The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. That’s a total of 218,632 words. You can purchase this 20-volume set for $995 (plus shipping and handling, but let’s not niggle). Logic would seem to dictate that a word in the English language is worth about $.00455.
Of course, there are a lot of online dictionaries out there that let you have their words for free, so maybe a word’s worth is really, nothing. Maybe that’s why some people say that talk is cheap.
Then again, John Lennon’s handwritten lyrics to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band closer “A Day in the Life” sold not long ago for a whopping $1.2 million. Lennon only wrote 154 words of the song (Paul McCartney wrote 58) so that would seem to indicate that the price of a word is $7,792.21.
That’s the problem with all these doggone words floating around out there: Some assembly is required. Somebody has to put those words together in such a way that they make sense. Sure, some have theorized that if you get enough monkeys in a room on enough keyboards, they could eventually turn out the completed works of Shakespeare. But monkeys aren’t free. And they’re not known for their ability to hit deadlines.
If you’re a writer, you’d probably love to get $7,792.21 per word for your work. If you’re buying the services of a writer, the Oxford English Dictionary price of $.00455 per word probably looks pretty good (unless, of course, you can get it for free).
The thing is, people (customers) don’t read words. They read ideas. They read concepts. They read messages that are of interest to them. Are your ideas, concepts, and messages reaching the right people and moving them to action?
Whether it’s buying or selling, those who live by the price of the word, die by the price of the word. And if you’re buying or selling words, you’re wasting your money.