Tread carefully in public communication among words with multiple meanings:
- global warming
- consistent with
Any other nominees?
It makes you sound stuffy to get it right, but it just adds to the confusion if you don't define what you mean in the context where you mean it. Best to avoid these words if you can make your point otherwise. Unfortunately, these are obviously key concepts. But precise communication is what we need, and without considerable care, these words lead into hopeless argumentative tangles.
All they need is two people: a clueless person whom you try to get the idea across to in broad brushstrokes, and a persnickety person trying to find an edge case that leads to a contradiction. If you find yourself trying to talk to both at the same time, you are doomed. Go too broad, and the persnickety person finds plenty to snipe at. Go too formal, and the clueless person finds grounds to say you are making no sense and hiding something. Try to walk the tightrope and they both find stuff to come at you with. Both people can be perfectly sincere. Your message will sink into a mire of suspicion, hostility and missing the point, and your opponents will pride themselves on a worthy job well done.
Woe to the person who has an important message that has any subtlety to it. And woe to the world that is so eager to find ways not to listen.
We'll return to our "why this summer is different" saga soon. Thanks for listening.