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Using plain English to share ideas

HumanergyCommunicationUsing plain English to share ideas

Nov

17

2010

Using plain English to share ideas

Do you ever feel like you’re in a strange world where everyone speaks a confusing language? Just attend a meeting at an organization near you. Between the industry-specific jargon and general office-speak, clarity of communication is nearly extinct. Not at Molson Coors, where “core competencies” are now referred to as “things we do well,” according to a recent blog posted by Miri Zena McDonald on SmartBlog on Workforce. The CEO of Molson Coors isn’t tossing around 10-pound reports anymore either, preferring a conversational video. Let’s all drink to that! (In moderation, of course.)

The real problem here is that using the buzz word of the hour is bad communication strategy. You risk the listener not understanding you at all or misconstruing your message. How can you avoid the trap of using jargon or fuzzy terminology?

Run it by an outsider….preferably a kid. Never assume that people will know what you’re saying. Find someone outside your industry and field-test your message. Kids are great at this, since they tend to take your words at face value. And they’re not afraid to tell you that you make no sense.

Use fewer words. If you distill it down to the absolute fewest number of words, you won’t have the luxury of using jargon in your communication.

Use “older” words and common definitions. Avoid the latest-and-greatest buzz terms, in favor of words that have been around awhile. When choosing a word, use it in its most common form; avoid using the 4th-most-common (and therefore less familiar) definition in the dictionary.

Give incentives for de-jargoning. Hold a contest among your staff to find common-word definitions for unclear or jargon-y terms your organization uses. The prize might be a complementary ambrosial noontime repast (otherwise known as a yummy free lunch).

Many people have weighed in with their least favorite word or phrase on blogs, such as the BBC’s 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate, and BNET’s Avoid “Jargon Monoxide” – 5 Definitions You Need To Know. Some favorites from these blogs: strategic staircase, drill down, synchronous tools and career stations (the new term for cubicles).

Now is your chance to nominate a word or phrase that you want to disappear…or maybe that you’re just puzzled about. Comment on this blog post, and take one small step toward better communication and its result: mutual understanding!

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!

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Comments (4)

  1. I don’t like “visibility” (as in “we need visibility to that”). It seems like a fancy way of saying “know about.” I never heard the term until a few months ago, and now it’s everywhere!!

  2. This year everyone in my Company seems to be “reaching out”. Instead of people wanting to “contact me to talk about….” they now want to “reach out to me to talk about…….”. At least no-one seems to be needing a “paradigm shift” any more.

  3. As long as you’re in pursuit of that “low hanging fruit”, everything always seems to work itself out!

  4. Most of us are probably guilty of this at some time or another. It is easy to slip into organisational acronyms and ” short – cut ” expressions. The popular Press does it all the time. Mobile phone technology and communication is also a trap for the unwary.
    Being aware and exercising self discipline can help. I suspect we have gone to far to redress the situation but we may be able to ameliorate it from time to time, particularly in correspondence.

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