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Language: It's A Matter of Interpretation
By Marjorie Brody   Printer Friendly Version

We all don't talk the same language. Use language that your listener will understand -- in any situation (for speeches, meetings, everyday conversation).

Remember that the goal of communication is to connect -- not impress, intimidate or confuse. Yet frequently, that is what happens.

Take, for example, some of the technical jargon and buzz words that are used. What would you think if someone said to you, "Let's coordinate a VTC?" I had one very large pharmaceutical client say that to me recently. He assumed that I knew what this meant. I didn't. How did that make me feel? Dumb. He just as easily could have asked if I was available for a Video TeleConference - the newest technology to "meet" via video when various parties are spread out over various locations. By using technical jargon I didn't understand, he made me feel less than his equal -- and I doubt that was his intent.

Every trade organization and most corporations have their own techno speak and buzz words, but they don't always translate into everyday English. Just remember who you are speaking to -- your audience. Think of the other person or people, and select your words accordingly -- whether orally or written. The acronym KISS is still good wisdom to follow: "Keep It Simple, Speaker." College journalism professors agree; they tell their students to write articles using language geared to a 6th grade reading level. In other words, don't use complicated words that make people run to grab their dictionaries. You can still use descriptive text without sounding pretentious.

Winston Churchill said that what separates the British from North Americans is a common language.

It's also important to remember that English isn't the first language for many Americans. And, even if it is, there can be regional or national differences. Take for example, a U.S. resident who is from India. This person responded to my comment, "If you buy custom-made golf clubs, you can lower your handicap and shoot in the 70s or 80s" by saying, "I don't understand you Americans, why would you want to shoot a handicapped person in his 70s or 80s?"

The effective orator remembers it's not just the thought that you are saying, but how you communicate it (or the message).

Article copyright© Brody Communications Ltd. 1999

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