Saturday, April 21, 2012

If you don't use the correct words, no one will take you seriously ... for all "intensive purposes," at least

A long time ago, at a newspaper far, far away, a manager decided to try an experiment.

When my section editor left for another job, the boss decided to hire someone from a non-traditional field to fill her spot. You know - not a journalist, not a word person.

"Let's get someone who thinks differently," he said to the other managers. "Let's shake things up."

He found someone with an advanced degree from a top film school with a lot of interesting ideas. His idea could have been a good one. Only the new editor didn't quite have a keen grasp of the English language.

For example:

"We just need to conversate (converse) and we'll get along, " the new guy told the team.

"Good idea," he told me one day. "It's passed mustard (passed muster) with the boss."

And my favorite: ..."For all intensive purposes, (intents and purposes) this project is done."

I guess I'd never realized before how incredibly important the right words can be. But now I'm hyper-vigilant. I know the mayor is "eager" to return to his job - not "anxious." I know there's been a "slaying" downtown - not a "murder" (at least not yet).

I also know now there are experiments, procedures and um, failed attempts. And I've realized that if you're not using the correct words, it doesn't matter how many degrees you have. No one will listen to anything you say - or write.

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