Same words, different people = different understanding
Reading computer related instructions always frustrates me, because I’m not techie enough to know what the words mean. When they say “enter name” my first question is “what name?” My name, the website name, the web host’s name? What??? From there it generally gets worse.
The people who wrote the instructions knew what they meant, but sure didn’t leave me a clue.
So any time you’re writing from an expert status to an audience of people who are not expert, you need to remember to clarify what you mean, even when the terms are well understood in your industry. That is, unless you sell only to other experts.
The second thing to consider is the point of understanding determined by your audience’s identity.
For instance, yesterday I picked up the local “ad paper” to read while I ate lunch. And I came across the words “dead broke” in one of the ads.
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Probably a person who has no money, right? Is this person trying to sell something because he or she is dead broke and needs cash fast? Is the “broke” status given as a reason for a low price?
No, that wasn’t it at all. Instead of a negative, the term was a positive. You see, I was reading ads for horses for sale. And if you’re talking about a horse, “dead broke” means that horse is a good one. He’s mannerly and obedient, and he doesn’t get excited over things that put some horses in a tizzy.
I don’t suppose you’re trying to sell a horse to someone who doesn’t know horse lingo, but do keep this in mind when you write an ad, or even a letter. If you’re trying to appeal to people who are new to your industry or your product, be sure that you don’t use any words or phrases with a double meaning. At least, not unless you go on to clarify.
Wishing you good words,