As someone who has written business requirements, project documentation and even a set of procedures for writing procedures, I can’t turn off my inner editor when I’m reading about a new addition to the toolbox in my garage. “Gently” is a funny term to include in an instruction manual, but I’ve seen it this week. “Gently press…” Translation: IF you have strong hands – and are most likely male – you might break the cheap plastic casing around this item as you open the latch to the battery compartment. If you are Candace, then pliers, extreme force and the creative use of a screwdriver will be required to gain entry.
Hmm. Perhaps “carefully” would be instructive AND inclusive to any user regardless of strength. “Carefully press…” (Of course, a performance issue is not always a training issue. My struggle and the potential for breakage that may have generated a modifier like “gently” could indicate an opportunity for redesign.)
In business, the words we choose say something about us as well as our products or services.
I’ve lost count of the biographies and resume-type documents I’ve edited for executives and potential leaders. If I see a word like “subordinate,” which is increasingly less common, I talk to the author. Sometimes the term fits because it’s written by the type of leader who has a strong attachment to rank and career ladders. Other times, we select a friendlier substitute or choose a more generic word like “employee.”
I enjoy editing reports, procedures, proposals and other technical documents as well as translating tech-speak into marketing materials. But when someone asked me about a gig writing SOP – Standard Operating Procedures – for a business with facilities across the U.S., I knew “no” was the best word I could choose, with a grateful slice of thank-you-for-asking. I keep a short list of people with the background AND passion to handle such assignments, and I’m happy to send potential clients in their direction.
For companies and people, there’s power found in honoring who we are. The ability to do something well doesn’t make it our true mission, and trying to serve everyone dilutes our strengths. If you need help finding the right words for your business, find me. And if I’m not the right fit, I probably know someone who is.