You’re probably familiar with this game from playing it with your favourite co-worker during strategic planning retreats. I’m talking about those “corporate-speak” words that are widely adopted in most office settings, but that are left out of normal human intercourse. That’s right, I said intercourse.
When we talk to people about funding our great projects – through proposal writing or direct mail or online – it’s important to talk to them in plain language. Forget about those I’m-trying-to-impress-the-boss words! Hunt them down and dig them out of your otherwise-awesome writing! Have a look at the worst offenders listed here and consider the more human translations in your donor communications.
- Communications. Did you see how I just used it in the sentence before? And didn’t I sound a bit poncy right there? I should have just used the word I meant: “writing.” If there’s a real word that’s simpler than the five-syllable one you just wrote, use it instead. You’ll sound more real.
- Dialogue. Why?! Think about how often you use a word when talking to your friends over a bottle of Mission Hill merlot (you’re welcome MH!). Strive to use words that you’d use when talking to a friend – assuming you don’t have a lot of friends who are serving time. The most criminal uses of “dialogue” are as a verb and/or together with “stakeholders”. Example: “Part of the strategic planning process involved dialoguing with our stakeholders.” How about calling me when the shuttle lands? Replace: “Part of the strategic planning process involved talking to people connected to the charity.”
- Stakeholders: But it’s such a handy word in the social sector world, right?! Well, it kind of blows chunks. Best expressed by Non-profit Hulk on Twitter.
- Synergy. I want to break my thumbs every time I hear this word. It may be my least favourite. That’s right, this list is in random order. You’ll have to look it up yourself, as I’m not even sure what it’s supposed to mean.
- Operationalize. I got a spell-check underline on that one, but we used it at the last two places I worked! You’re just going to have to craft a phrase instead to avoid sounding like a total knob.
- Iteration, iterative and interate. I know a high-paid consultant who uses this word in all its versions the same way other people use “the.” Replace with “repeat” or “emphasize.”
Remember: Be real and authentic. Use your own voice, not the voice of Corporate Dork, and you will draw supporters in with your down to earth charm.
I’m not done on this topic by a long shot.