top of page

Just Say No to Trendy Language

Every industry has their acronyms and buzzwords that make it practically a foreign language to outsiders, right? In special education, it’s all about IEPs, 504 plans, access points, FERPA, FAPE, OSEP, etc.

In the business world, it’s game changer, low-hanging fruit, drill down, blockchain, thought leadership, and more. And today in the nonprofit business world, it’s deep dive, bandwidth, donor pipeline, disrupter, silo, to name just a few.

And while it is the role and responsibility of nonprofit leaders to pay attention to the big trends, especially as they move forward with strategic planning, it’s a big mistake to get caught up in the current jargon.

Why? One of the first lessons you learn in legal writing is to stop writing legalese. In fact, law schools and continuing education programs have whole courses and workshops on how to stop writing like a lawyer. (It’s great—maybe—when they are writing to other lawyers and judges, but maybe not-so-great when they are writing to the rest of us.)

No matter what world we inhabit (special education, law, business, nonprofits), the language we use every day and around our peers is specialized and inaccessible to others. It is like conversing or writing in a foreign language. And for most nonprofits who care about social change, we strive to be inclusive.

You cannot be inclusive when you are using exclusive terms.

So, what do you do about this if you, like me, suffer from the buzzword affliction?

  1. Know your audience. If you have brand-new board members, don’t inundate them with these buzzwords. First listen to how they speak and think and do your best to make your style and word-choice appropriate to them all, not just a select few.

  2. Speak shorter sentences. Write shorter paragraphs. Really short. Like this one.

  3. Know that it is okay to break the rules of grammar and punctuation. And it’s okay to use short and clear words that your toddler at home would understand.

That’s why people have joined with you already. You’ve got nothing more to prove.

Other than going forth, communicating effectively and making a difference together.

Single post: Blog_Single_Post_Widget
bottom of page