The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made it clear last month that to ensure their funding stream, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is best advised to avoid 7 words in their vocabulary: “fetus,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”
Really? Come on now, folks. There is simply no excuse for asking anyone to “tone down” their documents by erasing parts of the English language. Some call this a “ban”, while others term it a “recommendation”. Either way, it’s simply “very problematic.”
Of course, none of us can tolerate censorship of our work. And those of us dealing with critical social issues — such as healthcare or human rights or the environmental crisis or poverty — need every word at our disposal to help us make the world a better place. Even in business writing, which is often thought of as dry and painful, we writers have the right to express ourselves fully (creatively, even).
I was heartened to read about The Human Rights Campaign’s response to the Trump Administration’s dictate; the organization projected all 7 words onto the entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, along with the words “we will not be erased.”
As writers, let’s instead use our erasers (or delete buttons) to make sure our words are clear, concise, and meaningful: to say whatever needs to be said, no matter what.
In recent months and years, climate change has been making an increasingly deeper impact on every one of our lives — across the country and around the world. But the term “climate change” doesn’t seem sufficient to describe the enormous challenges we are facing today: historic fires, droughts, hurricanes, and the sinking of some coastal cities.
As we already know, using the right language can mean a huge difference in successfully winning a grant, engaging a website visitor, or accomplishing a myriad of other essential tasks in our organizations. Just as important, the language we use to define our environmental problems can influence how others see the situation and take action (or not).
How can the right language help? Perhaps renaming “climate change” is a start. “Climate change” doesn’t identify the depth of the challenge, describe why things are happening as they are, or inspire us to address the situation. Susan Strong, Founder and Executive Director of The Metaphor Project (and a former editing client of mine for her book, Move Our Message: How to Get America’s Ear), mentions three steps we can take to use our language more decisively.
Read about her three steps in her blog article, Reframe “climate change,” in 3 Steps!.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the power of positive words to make a real, enduring difference in our lives. No matter what challenges we face in our personal or professional lives, maintaining a positive attitude and voicing that perspective often means the difference between success and failure. It’s that simple.
I came across this brief but extremely powerful online video that I just had to share. It’s about the power of words in the life of Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors in U.S. history.(Okay, there may be some controversy about all of his patents, but still…)
I believe this inspirational clip deserves its more than 81 million views and 3 million shares on Youtube. I would love to hear your thoughts on its message.
This is a great reminder to always frame your messages in the positive. Stress what something IS rather than what it IS NOT. Emphasize what you CAN and WILL DO rather than what you CANNOT. Orient your messages toward problem-solving.
They will travel a lot farther that way!
[We are continuing our series on the highlights and key takeaways from social impact and innovation conferences around the world. You can view our calendar of upcoming conferences, and let us know of others you’d like to share!]
As we moved into the last few months of the year, innovative thinkers and changemakers from around the world continued to come together to discuss the most pressing issues facing our communities. Storytelling and building effective communication were common themes across these conferences, encouraging us to take what we learned and use it to inspire our coworkers and those with similar dreams.
Chicago was the backdrop for this year’s Grant Professionals Association Annual Conference. Designed for professionals across all levels, workshops guided participants on leaving lasting impressions to win funding, crafting grant proposals and budgets, converting your grant writing experiences into capital to invest in your profession and becoming an effective advocate for your organization.
ComNet17 brought foundation and nonprofit professionals together to inspire each other to use strategic communications to spur positive social change. Breakout sessions discussed how to battle media scrutiny and criticism, how to create memorable, shareable and inspiring stories, and how to communicate with applicants, grantees, and board members in the grantmaking process. Grant Oliphant, President of The Heinz Endowments, gave an impactful keynote speech on how we can use our voices and speak up for our values at a time when none of us can afford to be silent.
At Stanford Social Innovation Review’s 12th Annual Nonprofit Management Institute, Continue reading
Like a bit of humor about writing and language? Me too. This one is from Mark Litzler, the cartoonist who illustrated my 2011 book, Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.