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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Words to Avoid—2013 Edition | Dan Gunderman, Big Duck

Introducing his annual list of words, Gunderman includes this caveat:
If any word on the list is truly the most effective choice for reaching your reader, please go ahead and use it. I would simply suggest that you ask yourself if it’s truly the most effective choice.
Gunderman's audience for this column is nonprofit organizations, but his word choices also apply to public and private organizations. I like his choices and have several of them in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. I plan to add constituents to my manual, and I'm pondering his strive, help, work comments.  

Here are the words, with some tidbits of his comments:
Constituents ... [L]et’s remember that unless you’ve been elected to office, you don’t actually have constituents. ...
Optimize
Ecosystem (when you don’t mean actual ecosystems) ... Unless you want people to think about biological organisms living in an interconnected natural environment, you’re likely to lose your reader or listener when you use ecosystem in another context.
Interwebs, internuts, FaceSpace, etc.
Strive, help, work, etc. ... ]T]ruth be told, there’s nothing wrong with the words themselves. But they do encourage weak sentence construction. ...
Synergistic Vomitastic.
And he notes, unfortunately, that he's "lost the war" on this word:

impact.
Here's what my online manual says of these words (or similar words):
optimum Overstated. Simplify. Think about replacing with best, greatest, ideal or most suitable.
ecosystem Lowercase, one word. It means "the system in which all the plants, animals and people in an area exist."
synergy "I don't know what it means, and I don't have time to look it up." If your readers might respond like that, don't use synergy--or at least explain it.
impact Formal and vague. Do not use as a verb to mean "affect." Instead, consider using simpler affect or influence--or be more descriptive: The tax cut will affect [or reducehuman services. As a verb, impact means "to force tightly together, pack or wedge, or to hit with force." Reserve impacted for wisdom teeth: impacted tooth.
As a noun, impact means "a forceful contact or collision." It also means "the force of impression or operation of one thing on another," but consider using simpler effect or influence instead: The uncertainties of the Bush economy had a negative effect[instead of impacton consumer confidence.
Impactful is not a word. To replace that business jargon, use an adjective like influential, powerful, effective or memorable.
______
Gunderman's article is featured today, Feb. 13, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Good Cause Communications, available at the Nonprofit Communications tab above and by free email subscription.

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