What word choice leads to misunderstanding?

How you say it matters. But sometimes, what you say can have an even bigger impact on how your message is received. Word choice matters.

Think back to the last time you were part of a discussion with someone from a different industry about their line of work. Did they bring up any words or terms you were unfamiliar with? Chances are they have some lingo or jargon in their industry that you do not understand.

That’s definitely the case for those of us in agriculture when we begin discussing our daily lives and careers. What terms are lingo or jargon we use that others may not understand?

I asked this question on Twitter and am really enjoying the responses.

Word Choice Matters

While traveling across the country visiting different farms and ranches (the differentiation of those terms is a debate in itself), I’ve experienced this on several occasions. In the Texas Panhandle, I couldn’t understand what piece of equipment the feedyard guys were talking about when discussing the shredder – what we called a bush hog or brush hog in Arkansas.

Before moving to Wyoming, I had never met a swather and only knew what a haybine or hay mower was. And it’s not just using different names for the same object that is confusing.

communication word choice

For most people not involved in agriculture, AI stands for artificial intelligence, but you mention the term on a ranch and my mind immediately goes to breeding season for cattle.

Yield for most of the world indicates a need to slow down, while that is the last thing you want a crop field to do during growing season.

Words that are misunderstood can also result in a negative feeling or interpretation. Take for example, hot topics like pesticides, GMOs, or sustainability. But most often we may not even recognize that the words we’re using are unfamiliar to our audience.

Being aware of the connotation associated with a word can help you understand which words may lead a conversation in the wrong direction.

Word choice matters. Next time you’re involved in a conversation with someone not from our industry, give them an opportunity to ask for clarification on any words. There can even be a little fun to discovering what words we’re misinterpreting.

This entry was originally published in the Beef Runner email update on May 06 22, 2021. To receive weekly advocacy tips and tools in your inbox, click here to subscribe.

Ryan Goodman lives in Colorado, is an avid trail and ultrarunner, and works with farmers and ranchers to help them share their stories of agriculture and how food is raised. Connect with Ryan online as @BeefRunner. #TeamBeef.
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