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I'm writing a manuscript with a colleague and in the book they want to include a sentence mentioning that we feel blessed (without any further context whatsoever, so "God" wouldn't be mentioned). They want to do this in order to personally thank god, but as a non-religious person I'd only be fine including "blessed" if I could interpret it through its secular definition (i.e., just being happy or fortunate). This is just so I can put myself at ease, since I feel that thanking god would "tarnish" my book since I'm not religious and it would go against my views.

Question: If two authors write an ambiguous word in a sentence (where both of the word's meanings would make sense), could they each interpret it in their own way? Or must a word be interpreted in the same manner by both authors? If this affects anything, my co-author thinks I'm religious and that I am interpreting "blessed" in the same way as they are.

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  • If (as it appears to me) you are worried that your co-author may think you will interpret it in a religious sense (because they falsely think you are religious):... Is there a reason you don't want to correct their incorrect belief? If there is, you might be better trying to negotiate a better phrase.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 11:14
  • This may be a Writing SE question; however, I would only stress that context is everything, with regard to either individual word meanings or interpretations of literature.
    – Bread
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 11:16
  • Please check my updated answer. It might throw some light.
    – Ubi.B
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 17:20

3 Answers 3

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Can it? (Is it possible?) Certainly.

Should it? No; if the authors cannot agreed on what a particular word means (in the context of the book in question) then it should be rewritten in some way that they do agree on the meaning. To deliberately use an ambiguous word to conceal differences of opinion seems dishonest to me.

If one author feels the need to acknowledge God while the other dislikes the notion, they might consider writing individual short introductions.

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  • The last paragraph is the key: if the OP doesn't like the co-author thinking the OP is using it religiously, and doesn't want to correct the co-author, they need to choose a different wording or (assuming it is in an introduction/forward), write separate intros.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 15:32
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Interpretation happens on the part of the reader, not the author. And different readers will interpret things in different ways.

As for blessed, yes, it originally has a religious connotation (obviously), but I feel it is more and more losing that direct religious link. If someone sneezes, I will say bless you, and I am not religious at all.

Without any further reference to god, the sentence in your paper will be interpreted by readers as they see fit. So one reader may attribute your state of being blessed to the divinity of their choice, whereas others will read it as "you feel happy".

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  • Following your logic, since I'll eventually be receiving a copy of the book myself (and thus being a "reader" of it), could I also interpret the sentence in my own way? And then the same goes for my co-author, as a reader themselves of the book could they interpret it how they wish?
    – user18119
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 7:51
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    @user18119 By "...could I..." and "...could they..." do you mean are each of you allowed to interpret it your own way (Ans: Yes, there's no thought-police about to descend) or are you able to interpret your own way (Ans: only you can answer for yourself; only you co-author can answer from themself).
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 11:10
  • @user18119 Yes, you could, you are allowed to, and you can interpret it how you want. And yes, the same goes for your co-authors.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 15:19
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To be honest, your question is more suitable for Writing Stack Exchange.

Your concern: If two authors write an ambiguous word in a sentence (where both of the word's meanings would make sense), could they each interpret it in their own way? Or must a word be interpreted in the same manner by both authors? If this affects anything, my co-author thinks I'm religious and that I am interpreting "blessed" in the same way as they are.

Well, you are not entirely wrong that each one of you can interpret "bless" in their own way.

  1. It can become a matter of debate between you and your co-author, if your book falls under genre: religion-spirituality. If this is the case, then it can become a matter of confusion both for your co-author and readers (and you) to grasp the second meaning of the bless.

  2. If genre is different than that of religion-spirituality, then, it can e]very well be handled by exchanging your thoughts with your co-author or putting a note expressing your adaptation on the second meaning of the word. So that, it reduces the chance that each of you do not interpret it in their own way.

  3. In a broader sense, blessed has an inherent connotation towards religion/god, but people these days are using it without any reference to external factor, namely God. So, it is better to use alternate word(s) expressing same gist to avoid confusion both for your co-author and your readers (and you). I suggest you check following question: Non-religious word for “blessed”

Additional information [good to know] There are three possibilities with your reader:

  1. Your reader could sense the meaning of "bless" that entirely depends up on the context in which you use the word (if rationalist)*
  2. Your reader could be biased towards religious connotation (if theist)
  3. Your reader could be biased towards secular connotation (if atheist)

It also applies to your co-author.

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  • @jsw29 Ok! yes, thanks for pointing out. I will try to elaborate my single highlighted line explanation little bit more.
    – Ubi.B
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 16:26
  • @jsw29 I have updated my answer. Once again, thanks!
    – Ubi.B
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 17:25

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