Aug 12 2014

I was in a discussion today about a conceptual model and the interpretation thereof. While the model is sound, the language used creates confusion and often debate; to the point that even I debated its meaning when I was first introduced to it. The content of this particular model is irrelevant. We have probably all seen some business model, organisational mission or vision or simply an email or other document that created as much confusion as it was intended to dispel.

As an American living in the UK I still, after 12 years, find some expressions confusing or illogical. George Bernard Shaw (or possibly Oscar Wilde) said “England and America are two countries divided by a common language”. English is generally considered the language of business, but remember, not everyone has the same grasp as you, and even those that do, may have a different take on specific words in specific contexts. Even local variances can create confusion.

I work with many people to whom English is a second language. Even those who learned it as children, and many of those in the US, Australia, the UK & other predominantly English speaking nations often find the nuances & intricacies of English difficult to master. When speaking to someone we can explain and take the time necessary to ensure understanding. When writing, this is not the case. When creating something that is intended to live within an organisation or an industry for some time, it is even more essential to ensure our words are chosen appropriately.

Communication is almost always at the top of the list of problems within organisations I work with. Don’t add to the problem by using ambiguous words & phrases, leaving your words open to interpretation due to context or lack there of, or creating confusion by word juxtaposition!


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