In recent posts, I’ve been ranting about all those people who rely on tired old phrases instead of writing clearly. Then what did I do? I talked about “honoring milestones.”

Worse still, I said it to drywall plasterer Steven, while we were driving to yoga class. He was whining about how his schedule was so messed up by contractors who insist they’ll need him for this fussy, time-sensitive work on a certain date then change their mind.

write with words your readers useIn preparation for yoga class, I drew from my well of compassion and I told Steven that these contractors “should honor their milestones.” You know, do what they said they were going to do when they said they would do it.

Laughing at my language

But “honoring your milestones” just made Steven laugh. He doesn’t work with people who talk like this. I do.

Because I like making people laugh, I continued with an expression I hear regularly with clients and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). “How do these contractors sustain the engagement of their plasterer stakeholders?” Steven started to tear up. Fortunately, we had just stopped at a red light.

I translated: “How do you put up with this crap?”

The reply: “Money.”

My point is that it’s fine for me to talk about milestones and stakeholder engagement with people who speak the lingo. But no one else.

When Steven gets together with his plastering buddies, I’m sure they use words that I cannot comprehend.

Almost everyone has a dialect

Our yoga teacher has her own way of communicating too.

At the end of our class, she has us repeat: “Peace to all beings. Bliss to all beings.” I feel so serene, lying on my back, sending out these loving thoughts.

Once we’re out of her orbit, though, it’s silly.

As we drove home, cars pulling out or turning without warning, Steven chanted: “People to all beings. Bliss to all beings.”

When that didn’t drain all the negative thoughts, I reminded him that these preoccupied drivers “have milestones to honor and stakeholders to engage.” Ha ha ha.

Executive recruiter lingo

Last night at an IABC seminar on resume writing, I had to stop myself from laughing out loud at the example of an effective resume the speaker, Martin Buckland, displayed. It featured expressions like “customer excellence” that make me either laugh or gag, depending on my mood, because they can be so over-used and empty.

I challenged Martin. Of course, he responded, job seekers have to back up how they achieved “customer excellence” or whatever buzz words they use. More importantly, he noted, they have to speak the same language as the executive recruiters, their gatekeepers for the mega-jobs.

Words that work for your audience

As my yoga teacher would say, I need to be open to the messages the universe is sending me. I hear you, universe. Instead of quickly discarding expressions because I’m weary of them, I need to consider how they work for other people.

So take your pick: honor your milestones, don’t blister the sheet rock, peace to you, deliver customer excellence or whatever floats your boat. It’s all good to me if it works for you.

Simple language is always the safest because everyone understands. But often choosing words for specific individuals or groups, not for myself, is better.

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Writing zen: it’s all about them, not me

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