- Fri, December 30 2011
- Filed under: Writing
I had lots of emails and comments in response to my post earlier this week on 18 mood-killing words to banish in 2012. The feedback fell into three categories:
1. Amen, agreed. Banish all jargon!
2. I mostly agree but what about when you’re addressing foundations or government?
3. Which words do I use instead?
Here is my response:
1. Thank you:)
2. I think words like “sustainable” and “indigenous” are terrible when you speak or write to the average person. They also should be banished from social media. For foundations and government grant proposals, your audience is already seriously addicted to jargon so using these words is permissible (though I would argue it’s still less powerful). As with all communications, it comes down to your audiences. You want to speak their language. For most donors, that would be plain English. For certain foundations, that might be foundationspeak.
3. In terms of which words to use instead, I had one reader (Sarah) ask me to translate a couple of jargon-ridden phrases. So here we go!
“The [name] is an accredited and internationally recognized college in rural [country] dedicated to serving the area’s most marginalized, indigenous population.”
Words that kill the mood: “recognized,” “rural,” “area,” “marginalized,” “indigenous” and “population.”
“Our internationally acclaimed college in the countryside of [country] is devoted to giving an A+ education to local students who are poor in means but rich in potential.”
“We are grateful to you for your support—for helping young people in one of the poorest areas of South America become effective agents of social change and economic development.”
I’m not a fan of “effective agent of change” or “economic development.” Let’s breathe life into that impact!
“Thank you. We are so grateful for your support. Because of you, a student like Isabella is going to a great school and turning into a determined leader. ‘I have changed what my future will be, and I’ve become a person who can change others’ futures too. Where we one had despair, we have hope. And where we once had struggle, we have opportunity. We have the [name of country] dream.’”
If you’re struggling with your translation, ask yourself this: Why do you do the work you do? Why do you care? You’ll start speaking a different language. And it’s the one that will truly connect with others.