- On November 19, 2014
The other day I read an opinion piece in The New York Times called “The ‘Kind of, Sort of’ Era” about our habit of using terms like kind of and sort of to take a little something away from what we’re saying, for whatever reason.
The next day I found myself writing a client that a point she was making was potentially confusing when I knew it was flat-out confusing. And there I was telling another I was a little confused by her copy when I was fully confused.
Maybe I was right to couch my confusion in kind of, sort of lingo—they’re clients and I wanted to be diplomatic—but the Times story put me on alert. All too frequently we minimize our message with words like potential, possible, quite, and a bit—“weeny words,” quips brand strategist Camille DeSantis.
These words frequently crop up in communications from pharmaceutical companies, where regulatory committees tend toward extreme caution. Under their aegis, drugs that could bring hope to patients become drugs that could potentially bring hope to patients.
I’m not taking on regulatory committees (oh, that would be unwise), but I recommend relying on verbs like could and might—whose very meanings convey possibility not fact—and ditching meek adjectives like potential and possible.
“The ‘Kind of, Sort of’ Era” was written by Steven Kurutz and appeared in The New York Times’s Week in Review section on Sunday, November 2, 2014.