Monday, May 5, 2014

"Spread the word"

One of my favorite movies of all time is Volunteers, a hilarious 1985 film with Tom Hanks as an unwilling Peace Corps member sent to build a bridge in Thailand, and John Candy as his eager-beaver, hyper-motivated, can-do teammate. Candy's character, Tom Tuttle (from Tacoma) is fond of motivational speeches and rousing calls to duty. His favorite book is entitled "Maximizing Growth Potentialwise." It's good for a laugh in the film, but that sort of thing sure can rub the wrong way in real life. 

I'm fully aware that I tend to verbosity when sharing my thoughts by means of the written word, and so I make every attempt to eschew the excessive verbiage in favor of a more simplified syntax.

Huh? "I know I tend to write long complicated sentences. I'm trying to do better." Well, why didn't I just SAY that? Good question. The answer is, I don't know why I do it, I just know that I do it. I am trying to do better.

It's not just complicated sentences that are deadly, though. It's also buzzwords. Jargon. Idioms. Whatever you call them, unless your audience is in the know, you're going to lose them. They are one thing that makes "civilianizing" (if you'll permit me the word) my military experience so difficult. I have to remember to consider my audience. EPR. OEF. TDY. AOR. Downrange. Contingency. Mobility. Readiness. Most civilians won't know what those acronyms and words mean. On a resume, they all usually mean the same thing: continued unemployment.

Here's an example: I had a statement on a resume that I had worded as "Oversaw seven subordinates in the implementation of revised standards for record-keeping." (That's not the actual statement, but it's similar.) What's the FIRST thing you see wrong with that? I'm pretty sure that my military readers and my civilian readers are going have different answers.

I'm going to bet that my military readers will say something like, "'Oversaw' isn't a strong verb, you should make it 'managed.'"

I'm going to bet that my civilian readers will say something like, "'Subordinates?' Think pretty highly of yourself, do you?"  At least, that's what the civilian expert who looked over my resume said. He went on to explain, "Civilian jobs aren't like military jobs. Sure, there's a boss. Sure, there's a team. There's a hierarchy. But it's nowhere NEAR as strictly defined as in the military."

To a military person, "subordinates" just means "people who work for you." To a civilian unfamiliar with the military, it often implies "inferiors." My poor word choice, simply because of a different perspective on vocabulary, could have cost me an interview, and a job.

So, to end this, I'm going to share an actual quote from a US Air Force website. I'm sharing it because it inspired me to write this today. Its jargon content is so high that it actually defeats its own purpose, which is scary because it was a response to the recent Internet Explorer vulnerability. Here it is:

"Request socialization of the impact of this vulnerability across your organizations to the maximum extent possible."

What should they have written? Read the title of this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment