Making an effort to use specific words instead of vague words can go a long way toward effectively communicating your message. Learn more about how to make this switch in your writings, meetings and presentations. And check out a bonus tip for excellent communication.
By Phil Stella
I’m back with more tips for communicating confidently – so that you’re messages are effective, efficient, and engaging. Let’s start off with how to go about selecting the words you use.
If you regularly analyze your word choice habits, good for you. If you ask yourself why you use particular words or phrases and aren’t happy with your blow-off answer of “That’s the first word I thought of” … or … “That’s the word I usually use,” then get ready to rock & roll with the following tips and tricks. You’ll benefit from some lessons learned on our journey toward more people-centric language.
Every word you write or say should be on purpose and for a purpose. One habit you should challenge … and change … is a preference for vagueness. Whether the choice is conscious or not, precise beats vague every time. When you have a choice between a vague word or phrase and a specific one, go with the specific choice. Specific words are clearer, easier to decode consistently, and more credible.
When your reader sees you write “… a few problems …” and they know you know the real number, they may wonder about your honesty or credibility. When it comes to choosing which word to use, go beyond the ‘first one/usual one’ approach. Go all the way to the BEST one you can find that consistently and clearly conveys your intended meaning to your specific group of people. And it’s not that long a trip to get there.
Here are some tips for using specifically language over general words or phrases:
Turn “ … more than a little bit over plan …” into “… significantly over plan …” or, even better, into “… x% over plan …”
Change “… several projects account for most of the overtime …” into “… six projects account for 73% of the overtime …”
Opt for “… 30 complaints from 13 customers …” instead of “… lots of complaints from several customers …”
When you aren’t certain about specifics, even a range is better than a vague word. Saying something like “Expect the package within five to seven days” is still better than “ … within several days …”
Here’s another challenge: stop using the phrase “ASAP.” It’s not specific at all and likely to be interpreted by the receiver differently than the sender. Always opt for a specific day and time.
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Every word you say should be on purpose and for a purpose. So, move all the way to the BEST word or phrase you can find that consistently and clearly conveys your intended meaning to your specific group of people.
And, I’d like to share with you a bonus tip for communicating… Start Strong & End Strong!
Whether you’re writing a memo, conducting a phone meeting, or delivering a presentation, one success factor will always be to start off strong and end it strong. Your readers or listeners will usually be influenced most by what they hear or read first – and more likely to keep listening or reading if they like what you say when you first start off.
And, they’ll tend to remember most what they hear or read last. This is not to say that what you present in the middle isn’t important – of course it is! But be sure to spend a little more time and effort crafting your opening and closing parts of the message to be sure you’re communicating to the best of your ability.
Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.