The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

In 1839, the highly revered words of “the pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his historical play Cardinal Richelieu. Ever since, the use of this phrase has skyrocketed and is now commonly used and applied to everyday life. Despite the extremely common use of the phrase, in many cases, it has little effect due to the fact that many continue to question the might of the pen. And their uncertainty is valid, for the pen is an object that is barely longer than three inches. Comparatively, a sword is not only large, but is also a sharp, hefty, and possibly even lethal weapon. After all, the sword has the ability to maim and injure, while the pen’s abilities are limited to words on a page. And while one may be tempted to use physical might and strength to intimidate and therefore have control over another person, they might find that it is not the most influential tactic. On the other hand, though it may not seem so, the pen possesses infinite power. The words we use may influence others in unimaginable ways, and we can use these words to impel others to believe what we believe in, spreading positive influence even further than we realize.

Firstly, imagine two people facing each other. One holds a pen, clutched beneath their index finger and thumb, and the other wields a sword. If they were to fight against each other, there would be a clear victor: the wielder of the sword. The person holding a pen simply has no chance. Now imagine a different scenario. One person, holding a sword, is faced with thousands of people. Another, holding a pen and able to use their voice, is in the same situation. If the two were to try to fight against the mob of people in front of them, who would have a better chance of winning?  A sword is meaningless against so many people. It is so heavy and moves so slowly that it could only attack a few people at once. However, the other person is in luck, for they have the ability to use words, which can not only be used against all thousand people at once, but can also express a much more meaningful idea in the same amount of time. We should all feel lucky, for if we are ever faced with a thousand people, while we may not have a sword, we definitely can use words. And those words, if used correctly, can express a thought-provoking, life-changing thought in just a few seconds.

Furthermore, without causing harm to people, both written words and spoken words allow people to express their complete thoughts. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most notable leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States, is a profound example of this. According to Forbes, the famous and highly influential quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” comes from one of his writings. In April of 1963, King had been arrested for leading a demonstration in Birmingham, and one of his most extraordinary works is his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” He constantly used his striking rhetorical abilities and finely honed way with words to persuade others to join his cause. Thus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a tremendous influence on millions at the time, becoming one of the most prominent civil rights activists in the history of the United States. And yet, the question remains, why not use violence? Not only is it a more tempting option, it is much easier. However, physical strength only instills fear in people, forcing them to agree to our demands. On the other hand, speaking and writing allow other people to choose to believe in our cause and be encouraged to spread it further. Put simply, one slash of the sword has only one consequence, and its influence likely ends there. But a scribble of the pen can have a thousand outcomes, reaching thousands of people, spreading across nations and breaking barriers.

Finally, words have the ability to evoke emotions from those we choose to influence, and this can greatly help to convince them to believe what we believe. According to CXL, Antonio Damasio was a neuroscientist who conducted a famous study which demonstrated the impact that emotions people feel have on their decisions. He discovered that those with brain damage, who were not able to feel emotions, could not make decisions. Ultimately, he realized that emotions are almost entirely what affect all of the decisions we make. Additionally, within our brain, there are two systems: system one and system two. System one is on consistently and is the emotion processor, while system two is the logical processor. Consequently, there is an ample chance that you will make a decision solely based on your emotions. Therefore, when the words that we use in our writing affect others and can make them evoke emotions, every future decision of theirs is impacted, underscoring the importance of targeting people’s emotions. However, the only emotion that violence can establish is fear. Writing can do so much more. It can tug at our heartstrings, put a smile on our face, make our heartbeats quicken, make us laugh or cry, and bring out the best in humanity. The possibilities are simply endless. For this reason, the ability that words have to impact others is tremendously increased.

Ultimately, our words have a profound impact on those we influence; an impact that is far greater than any form of violence, force, or threats. The pen is considerably more efficacious and eloquent than the sword due to its ability to influence thousands, if not billions of people at once; its ability to make people believe in our cause rather than simply fear us; and its ability to target people’s emotions and impact their decision-making for the rest of their lives. We cannot really measure how far the influence of our words travel. Therefore, we can choose to use the great power and mightiness that our words have to influence change on the future world. Our writing can inspire change in ways that we cannot begin to conceive by spreading our ambition and belief to others, and if we do this for good purposes, we can make the nation we live in — nay, the planet we live on — a better place. If we all use the exceptional power that is writing in the forthcoming years, decades, and centuries, we will be able to accomplish more than ever before. Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s words were thoroughly accurate; though swords are larger, sharperm and more intimidating, when all is said and done, it is the pen, which is powerful enough to be able to impact and alter decisions and beliefs of others, that can spread influence throughout the entire world, that is truly the mightiest of all.

Works Cited

Carmine Gallo.

“Leaders Who Master The Power of Words Inspire Change.” 15 January 2018. Forbes. 19 December 2020. 

Shanelle Mullin. 

“Emotional Persuasion: The Advanced Guide.” 25 September 2020. CXL. 19 December 2020.