How Much Would Someone Pay For Your Words?

Many freelance writers get paid by the word. The average rate is 5 - 10 cents a word.

I’m convinced 19th century novelists were compensated in the same way. I first suspected this in my senior year of high school as I plowed through all 900 pages of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Other students read the Cliff Notes, but oh no, not me. If the assignment said Read Moby Dick, I was going to read Moby Dick. All 900 pages of it.

Photo courtesy of Carlos & Sandy Rios
Though I believe Melville penned more than a few unnecessary words in his classic novel, we 21st century writers are not quite so free to wax eloquent. Especially those of us who are paid by the word. 

Editors ruthlessly trim unnecessary verbiage and tighten sloppy phrasing. They cut elaborate descriptions down to bare bones and hone phrasing until it is a shadow of its original self. They sift through the sand of the superfluous to find the gems of genius. They make every word count.

By doing so, they eliminate the unnecessary. Only the best words remain. They exchange the flabby for the fabulous, the milquetoast for the mighty. They take a shotgun blast and transform it into a sniper’s rifle.

They refuse to pay for one unnecessary word.

Their frugality makes me wonder.

What if the situations were reversed, and instead of being paid for every word, I had to PAY FOR them?

What if every word I spoke cost me 10 cents? What if, at the end of the day, someone pushed a button and generated a tally of all the words I said, multiplied them by $.10, and handed me a bill? What if I had to give an account for every word I said?

I think I’d choose my words sparingly.

I’d only say those that were necessary, timely, and prudent. I’d choose the absolute best words to convey my message. I’d listen closely to others to be sure I didn’t waste words with an inappropriate response.

I’d minimize unnecessary tirades, too, because goodness knows I use lots of words when I lose my temper. 

God’s Word tells us that one day we will give an accounting for the words we speak.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

Knowing this makes me want to choose my words carefully. 

At the end of the day, what would your bill be?

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak,” (James 1:19). 

Will you join me today in choosing our words wisely?

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  1. Well written. Well said. Thank you for the reminder:) Have a blessed day.

    1. Karmen,
      So glad you stopped by today, and thanks for commenting :)

  2. Lori, I love this post. It really made me think! Thanks so much for sharing it. Blessings, Edie

    1. Thanks, Edie, so glad you visited :)

  3. Hi Lori, that will be easy to remember because I am a Laurie too. I am launching a blogspot called homeschool fluff, and I would like to advertise your book on my blog for my Mom's Minute Mondays column. I really love to feature you there, and it is free advertising. I am a home school mom who is also in college, so my blog is for a grade. You may email me privately at: and let me know what you think.

    1. Thanks for the honor, Laurie. I'm always looking for ways to encourage homeschooling moms. I'll be in touch!

  4. I've been enjoying your devotional posts and have nominated you in my Liebster Award tag post. I hope you have time to participate. Thanks for your blog!

    1. Thanks so much for the honor, Heidi :)

  5. Hey Lori, visiting you back-- I LOVE this one about choosing your words! I read a quote (that I'm cooking up a post about), "Speech is not free, and can never be fully redeemed." WOW!

    1. Wow is right -- that's a great blogworthy post. Can't wait to read it! Thanks for stopping by :)

  6. Great post, Lori. Love the story about you reading all 900 words : )
    Love the analogy.
    convicted by the Scripture.

  7. oooh that's a good thought! a challenging one at that. I'm very glad I don't have to pay for all my words :P

  8. I love this.... "What if every word I spoke cost me 10 cents?" I will ponder this all day and then some. Thanks so much!

  9. This is an excellent thought. This blessed me today!

    KML @

  10. Very interesting comparison. I have neer thought of it like that.
    Keep up the God work.

    1. "Keep up the God work." Love it! Thanks for stopping by, Lori. (nice name, too :)

  11. This was such an excellent post!! I often think of this, yet forget. This is a great reminder to be much more careful with my words and to listen better.

    Thanks so much for linking up over at WholeHearted Home. Your posts are a special blessing and I am so happy that you link up each week.

  12. Beautiful words and so carefully chosen. That's a great way to evaluate what we say. Think I'll be more careful today!

  13. I much needed reminder for me! Thanks for linking up this week. I always enjoy reading your posts. :)

  14. I have a tendency to skim when it comes to some of the classics. I'm trying to memorize the first chapter of James. He has good principles for us to learn. And this caution about the words we speak (or write) is an important one.

  15. Love this post! You've both convicted and challenged me. Blessings!