Tag Archives: Terminology

Terminology (part 3)

The other side of the terminology discussion involves using industry standard terms of a particular industry with  those unfamiliar with the industry. Such terms and acronyms may make perfect sense to you and other industry professionals but to the rest of us it sounds like you are speaking some form of shorthand gibberish.


Corporate speak
We make fun of corporate speak all the time, but within the corporate environment those terms, acronyms and abbreviations make perfect sense. Indeed, after a while the acronyms and abbreviations become so inherent to one’s vocabulary that they become normal words, which is why most corporate employees pause for a second when you ask then what a particular acronym or abbreviation actually stands for – they have to recall that information from some dark recess in their mind. So it’s always interesting to see how much of that corporate speak and standard industry terms seep into a company’s advertising and promotional materials. Inclusion within industry-specific periodicals and other publications makes sense – such media shouldn’t dilute their industry-specific content just in case someone unfamiliar with the industry happens upon a copy and chooses to peruse it casually. But for mainstream materials and general publications those terms, acronyms and abbreviations really need to be weeded out and replaced with more common language.


Speaking with customers
That advice on limiting corporate speak in printed and web-based materials also applies equally to talking with potential contacts and existing customers Potential contacts may have zero knowledge of your company and its products and existing customers may not be fully up to speed on the appropriate terms either. You don’t have to dumb it down but you do have to be cautious in how you introduce your product, company, and business opportunity. Even if your product or company is well-established in the marketplace and the need for your product(s) and/or service(s) is obvious, you can still lose your potential audience if you alienate them with your words. That’s one reason I like being an Independent Brand Partner of Nerium™ International; we all have fine lines and wrinkles that we want to reduce and I can just point to my face as an example of what is possible. No confusing terminology needed.

Read more about Nerium™ International at http://shywitness.arealbreakthrough.com





Terminology (part 2)

Microsoft has been quite instrumental in introducing industry standard terms and practices in their software that are now ubiquitous. Launch any Windows-compatible software package, for example, and you instantly know how to navigate within the application because you will recognize the Windows look-and-feel as well as terms used throughout. You also expect certain behaviors; you expect to see a floating menu when you right-click your mouse for instance.


Wizards and defaults and things
Using a wizard to install a software package is a normal occurrence, and while doing so you will see fields capturing default values that the software creator(s) have defined as being the optimal values/locations/settings for most users. But have you looked up these terms in a dictionary recently? The original meaning of the word wizard was a reference to a person that exhibited magical powers, while the original meaning of the word default was a type of failure (failure to act, failure to meet a financial debt etc.).

Remember how, a few short years ago, if someone asked you for a URL your reply started with “h t t p colon backslash backslash”? Not only has technology given new definitions to existing words but it has morphed our usage of those words over time. Presumably when first utilized, the terms wizard and default seemed strange and out of place and are now entrenched in the vernacular.


And the relevance of all this is?
You might be wondering about the relevance of all this is, and it ties back to that interesting experience during a meeting at work yesterday regarding terminology usage. Basically, the discussion involved the term attachments, which is used to refer to read-only content that is associated in some way to another item within software (a photograph that is attached to an email, for example). After the person demonstrating a new software application being evaluated for deployment explained how attachments would be editable within the software the conversation quickly changed to how a new term was needed for such media, as the term attachments refers to content that is read-only in nature and that must first be downloaded before it can be modified.

It was a bizarre discussion of sorts but it illustrated the strength of the mental model that is associated with the term attachments. The concept of making an attachment editable seemed to border on heresy while simultaneously opening a can of worms. The situation gave me a brief peek into how difficult it can be to modify a standard industry term to augment its scope of meaning.


Terminology (part 1)

I had an interesting experience during a meeting at work today regarding terminology usage.


Industry standard terms
Have you ever stopped and thought about the industry standard terms that you use on a regular or even daily basis? For instance, if you stopped at a Starbucks coffee shop this morning what Starbucks-specific terms did you use to order what you wanted. If you shopped for a computer or software sometime recently what industry-specific and even store-specific, terms did you use as part of that process? It’s fascinating to stop sometimes and listen to the terms that we use as we go about our day. Have you ever though back to the days when you first encountered those words?


New terms for coffee
Going back to the Starbucks example, do you remember when you first encountered their specific terms for coffee? I grew up with standard sizes of small, medium, and large. The dimensions of same varied depending upon the item in question and the establishment that was selling the item but they were standard terms and easily understand. They were also highly representative of the quantity of the item that you were going to receive. In contrast, Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta are not terms that are standard, easily understood, or highly representative of the implied quantity. They have meaning only within the four walls of a Starbucks coffee shop.


Introducing new terms
On those rare occasions that I find myself in a Starbucks location I struggle to keep a straight face as I place my coffee order, and am always endlessly fascinated by patrons capable of adding additional terms like “skinny” to their coffee order without as much as a giggle. But Tall, Grande, Venti, and Trenta are now terms that rattle easily off the tongues of Starbucks patrons. Since those terms were first introduced into the coffee marketplace and reinforced by baristas they have become, in one sense, standard industry terms, albeit in a limited capacity. But consider the mammoth effort involved in establishing those terms versus using the more common small, medium, and large?


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