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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

How do you craft words that work?

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

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Communicating effectively is a challenge. Miscommunication is rampant – we misunderstand, misinterpret, misspell, mispronounce, and more. You can meet the 10 “faces” of miscommunication in this blog post.

Can the formidable foe of miscommunication be conquered?

Yes. We can beat miscommunication when we craft “words that work.”

10 Characteristics of "words that work":

I propose “words that work” have these 10 characteristics:

  1. Audience-centered Speak your audience’s language. Address their needs. Meet them where they are and take them where they need to go.

  2. Accurate and evidence-based Speak truth. Support what you say. Provide the strength of the evidence.

  3. Balanced Acknowledge and address all sides to a story. Describe common ground and explain differences. Provide context. Recognize your biases.

  4. Clear Give your messages clarity. Say what you mean, simply. Avoid jargon.

  5. Concise Use no more words than needed. Get rid of lazy, vague, and unnecessary words.

  6. Correct Use proper grammar and spelling. Proofread.

  7. Descriptive Paint a picture. Illustrate and provide examples. Tell a story.

  8. Compelling Inspire and motivate with your words. Provide a call to action that is practical and attainable.

  9. Memorable Use words and phrases that stick.

  10. Proven Check for understanding. Determine the effectiveness of your messages. If they do not work, revise until they do. Create communication that works!

At the end of presentations about miscommunication, I ask attendees to list which of those "words that work" they need to work on most.

The same four characteristics are selected more than all others.

The front runner is concise – to use no more words than needed. Nearly twice as many people choose concise over all other characteristics.

In second place is clear – to say what you mean using words that are clear to your audience.

Compelling and memorable are generally tied for 3rd place. We want people to be motivated to act on our messages and we want our messages to stand out and be remembered.

Action steps to create words that work:

The overriding action step to help accomplish these goals is to evaluate and revise your messages until they work. Analyze every word and make each one count. Make sure your audience finds your words meaningful, motivating, and memorable.

Looking to be more concise? Check out this post: Be brief, or not?

Want to achieve more clarity? Read this post: Am I making myself clear?

Wish your communication was more compelling or memorable? Read these posts:

Which of the 10 characteristics do you need to work on? Share your choices in the comments. Craft words that work to communicate more effectively!

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” ~ Sydney J. Harris

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