Even seasoned communicators slip into a bad habit or two. And from time to time, we all make messaging missteps that we could easily avoid.

So, in this month’s Flashcard I tackle three of my top (small-scale) messaging pet peeves: Using too many acronyms—even familiar ones, overusing the passive voice, and forgetting to swap lackluster articles for powerful pronouns. (I call these “pets” because they’re some of my own worst habits—and they’re easy to fix!)

I’m not claiming that words are magic. Even when we use all the right ones we can’t solve all the world’s problems—obviously. But words do matter; and even the littlest ones can help your message hit home.

Quick Fixes for Messaging Pet Peeves

Acronyms. Stop using them. Even the most familiar ones—like the EPA—risk alienating. Polls show that the full name—Environmental Protection Agency—yields a bump in support.

Weed out the passive. You wield the power to name (and blame) bad guys or give heroes due credit—but only if you use active sentence construction. Think: Who did what to whom? (The climate is warming vs. We are warming our climate.)

Get possessive with pronouns. Instead of “the government” or “the climate,” try “our government” and “our climate.” Switch to pronouns like our, we, us, you, and your to make concepts less abstract and paint people into the picture.

If you’d like to go a bit deeper on these tips, here’s further reading:

What are your messaging pet peeves? Send them my way.

July 19, 2012