The Art of Precise Language

Personally and professionally I have grown in appreciation of those who have mastered the skill of using precise language.

The fall brings cleaning and projects to ready for the long winters of Minnesota. There will be multiple times of frustration that will surface during this time in our family. My husband will be puzzled, to put it mildly, when I don’t lift something the way he would or move something to the place he intended which he assumes should be intuitive. I respond with a “recommendation” that he tell me exactly what he wants and how he wants it done before we start to avoid such frustration.

During a family health crisis, I was impressed with my sister, who is a home health care professional, and her ability to say exactly what she was going to do, when and how she was going to do it. Her use of precise language lessened the emotion around the loss of control our sibling was feeling.

A Project Manager recently told me that she recognized the strength in another IT professional who could clearly and concisely state the issues, needs and goals of the project. She said that strength was particularly important during the inevitable time in a project when bad news has to be delivered. She personally had a tendency to “sugar coat” or ease into the issue at times with too much back-story. It would take up too much valuable time and/or confuse the issue. She wanted to practice the art of precise language. She wanted to work on clearly stating what was expected, the problem, gain agreement on resolution, and deliver. She wanted to work on this skill because it limits wasted emotion or large confrontations that can take our eye off doing the right work for the right reason.

There is a very simple exercise on using precise language at www.englishforeveryone.org/PDFs/Using Precise Language .

Think about how you communicate and practice precise language the next time you give work direction, address a problem or move furniture.