Heart-shaped tag: "I am grateful"

Word of the Year: Gratitude

As 2017 came to a close, “word of the year” announcements cropped up all over the internet. Although the words selected by various organizations differed widely, they all called attention to some key concern in the cultural landscape over the past year. Dictionary.com’s word of the year was complicit. Merriam-Webster’s was feminism. And the American Dialect Society’s word of the year was fake news.

My personal word of the year

But as 2018 gallops away to a hectic start—how is it already the end of January?—I’m choosing a different kind of word of the year, one to help guide me as I move forward into the new year: gratitude.

Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as:

noun | grat·i·tude | \ ˈgra-tə-ˌtüd , -ˌtyüd \
The state of being grateful : thankfulness.

A couple of fun word-nerd facts about gratitude:

  • It’s an old word; as far as we know, it was first used in 1523.
  • Its root, grat, comes from the Latin word gratus, which means pleasing or thankful. Other words with the same root include ingratiate (to make others feel thankful for something you’ve done) and congratulate (to express how pleasing someone’s success is).

Why gratitude?

Gratitude journalWhy did I choose gratitude as my word for 2018? It’s a proven antidote to stress and anxiety, a soothing balm that I—and, I suspect, many of you—need after the turbulent events of the previous year. This study highlights some of the far-reaching benefits of practicing gratitude: improved sleep, more energy, fewer physical problems, better progress toward personal goals. Who wouldn’t want to reap such rewards? With that in mind, one of my resolutions this year is to keep a gratitude journal. I’ve made intermittent (read: pathetic) attempts at this in the past, but this time around, I’m determined to persevere and write down five things I’m grateful for every day.

For most of us, being grateful doesn’t come naturally; it requires deliberate effort and a shift in mindset. Kristi Nelson’s blog post, “It’s All About the Glass,” offers a metaphor that I find helpful for making this shift. She points out that it’s not always about whether the glass is half full or half empty. Often it’s about taking the time to see and appreciate the glass itself. All too frequently, I fail miserably at maintaining this perspective, but I’m discovering that it gets easier with practice.

The professional case for gratitude

There’s no doubt that gratitude can enrich our personal well-being, but writers and editors gain an added benefit. Focusing on gratitude helps us notice what we wouldn’t notice otherwise. Did you see that cool cloud formation? The way the wind lifted and swirled that pile of leaves in a graceful dance? That routine kindness your spouse performs daily that you’re apt to overlook? Being alert for things to be grateful for makes us keener observers—and that makes us better writers and editors.

Fall leaves dancing in the wind

For writers, focusing on gratitude helps you pay attention to the finer points that make a tale come alive for readers. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” So engage your senses: What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste? What are the small details that evoke gratitude in you? Taking time to notice and enjoy is the first step in imparting to your readers the vivid colors, sounds, textures, odors, and flavors that will immerse them in your story.

Do your observation skills need honing? Check out the practical tips and exercises in these articles:

How to Write Better by Exercising Your Observation Skills
How to Develop Sherlock Holmes–Like Powers of Observation and Deduction
How to Be a Better Observer of Nature

What about editors? As a copyeditor, it’s my job to observe carefully. I need to constantly be on the lookout for minutiae: a typo, a missing comma, a compound word that’s hyphenated in one instance but not in another. Catching such errors is a critical skill for an editor. But being grateful helps me better see the larger picture—not only what’s wrong with the text I’m editing, but also what’s right and beautiful. And I hope that makes me a more sympathetic editor, the kind that my clients will want to work with again and again.


Today I’m grateful for the beauty of the written word. What are you grateful for?


I Am Grateful,” by Carl Attard / CC0
My Gratitude Journal,” by Claire / CC BY-NC-ND
Falling Leaves,” by Matt Collamer / CC0

Posted by Akiko Tamano


Akiko, thank you for your beautiful post! What a lovely reminder to look for the seemingly small, but priceless things around us. You help make our lives richer. Thank you!

Akiko Tamano

Thank you for your kind words, Mary!