Words Matter and Can Be a Distraction

by | Sep 5, 2020 | Change |

words matter

Agreement. MoU. Terms of Service. Ways of working. Rules of engagement. Standards. SoPs. Words matter. Just ask a lawyer.

However, words can also be a distraction. We can spend a lot of time and energy debating what word or term to use without even talking about the content. It’s often helpful to be clear on the issue, the purpose, and/or the content before debating the term.

Words come with baggage, expectations and emphasis. ‘Bias’ locates the problem in an individual or system. ‘Oppression’ acknowledges structural power differentials (see Data Feminism book). ‘Agreement’ has different legal implications than ‘MoU’.

Being clear on what you are trying to do/accomplish/address helps determine which word to use or route to go. And sometimes we change the word we use depending on the context we are in or the audience we are engaging with.

This applies to legal agreements as well as social issues.

Photo by Brett Jordan


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