Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Word choice is important

[This was originally posted at http://timstall.dotnetdevelopersjournal.com/word_choice_is_important.htm]

Communication is important, we often use words to communicate, therefore our word choice is important too. Even slight variations in word choice can have very different meanings and connotations. Here are some examples. I'd be curious to hear what examples you've come across in your experience.


Wording 1Wording 2 (More clear)What's the difference?
I'll get that done by the morning This job will take 5 hours.The first implies that you're working all night on it, the second gives you flexibility.
He stepped down from management to be a developer again.He transitioned from manager to developer.The first implies that managers are more "important" than developers, which is not always the case. The good companies provide a technical track for senior technical folk, such that transitioning from manager to developer could be a lateral shift, not a demotion.
I've made changesI've made improvementsAre the changes good or bad?
(talking to a manger) I need this new toolWe need this new toolEmphasizes that it's not you who needs a "favor" (i.e. a new tool), but rather for the benefit of the team.
This project requires a senior developerThis project requires a skilled developerThe project really needs skill, which doesn't necessarily mean "the developer with the most years of experience."


I realize it's just words, but the meanings behind those words are important.


[UPDATE]: I am absolutely not saying that one should spin, deceive, or try manipulating people with word choice. No one wants someone else trying to manipulate them with words. The goal is to use clear word choice that clarifies real intention, not use "sneaky" words to trick others or hide important details.

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