Posted by: Jack Henry | July 9, 2020

Editor’s Corner: On the Importance of Word Choice

Good morning, everyone! Today’s subject is the importance of word choice. If you’re ready, let’s dive right in.

Good writing is about choosing the best words and organizing them in the most efficient way to make a clear point. As business and technical writers who want to provide easy-to-access information, we should always use the most common word (for instance, everywhere instead of ubiquitous). And we should choose words with a neutral connotation.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that we editors try to reduce the usage of words that have a violent connotation: words like kill and execute (as in “you will need to kill the process” and “you must execute the command”). Yes, we do realize that these terms are common, and we cannot always change them, but we ask you to be aware, and when possible, to use neutral words like stop and run, respectively.

We also try to replace words that have an undesirable connotation, like impacted (as in “the member was impacted”—I think you can see the problem there). We almost always replace impact and impacted with affect and affected. According to our friend Grammar Girl, “Although impact has taken root in the business world as a verb, as in ‘Cutting prices will impact our revenue,’ many people maintain that impact is only proper as a noun. They believe the verb impact only means to hit, and any other use is just irritating jargon.”

Which brings me to my final point today and that is that you should always choose common terms over jargon. Not only does every industry have its own jargon (we have plenty in the financial industry) but every department in every company has its own jargon. Jargon is OK to use when communicating with the people in your small group, but it can be difficult for all the people outside your group (or for newcomers) to understand—so you should avoid it in your writing.

If you need more motivation to stop using jargon and ten-dollar words, think of me in front of my keyboard, crying, as I try to figure out what you mean.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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