When you partner with me, we’ll have more impact (word aversion)

The word partner used as a verb annoys me. It’s fingernails-on-a-chalkboard awful to my ears. Every time I see it, I want to grab the fattest, juiciest, darkest red pen I can find and cross it out in a definitive way. If you really want to bug me, invite me to “partner” with you on some project. No matter how cool your project is, I already hate it.

That’s a common affliction among writers and other word-oriented people. We have aversions to certain words. And our aversions can be so deep that seeing or hearing certain words can ruin our whole day.

Another word the a lot of people hate is impact. That one doesn’t bother me, but I can see their point: It’s an officious, soulless abstraction that propagates in mindless business meetings where people are required to talk but not allowed to think.

A post at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog takes an interesting look at word aversions and advises tolerance (How does ‘impact’ impact you?):

We have a tendency to generalize from our feelings, leaping too easily from “I dislike this usage” to “This is wrong” or even “No one should ever say this anywhere.” It’s natural that we would want to universalize our preferences, but it’s not very reasonable or practical. Better to examine why we might object to a legitimate word.

The word you hate may not be an appropriate candidate for banishment from all human discourse.

If a word is something real people in your audience say, if it’s something that has meaning and resonance for them — you should at least consider letting it by.

Fundraising is not about you and your preferences. It’s about your donors.

Thanks to @GrammarGirl for the tip.


Comments

8 responses to “When you partner with me, we’ll have more impact (word aversion)”

  1. Grant Bayldon Avatar
    Grant Bayldon

    Seldom does an email get an “Oh YES!” out of me as loudly as the one below – part of my post-traumatic stress reaction after years of working with development organisations who love to use these words.
    I’d also add “surface” used as a verb (as in, “let’s surface some issues”). Ever. Unless you’re a sea mammal. Then it’s OK cause you need to breath.

  2. Grant Bayldon Avatar
    Grant Bayldon

    Seldom does an email get an “Oh YES!” out of me as loudly as the one below – part of my post-traumatic stress reaction after years of working with development organisations who love to use these words.
    I’d also add “surface” used as a verb (as in, “let’s surface some issues”). Ever. Unless you’re a sea mammal. Then it’s OK cause you need to breath.

  3. Wes Clark Avatar

    “Notwithstanding” is my fingernails-on-a-chalkboard word. It’s so bad that I’ve trained myself to simply replace it with “despite” in order to avoid the emotional trauma.

  4. Wes Clark Avatar

    “Notwithstanding” is my fingernails-on-a-chalkboard word. It’s so bad that I’ve trained myself to simply replace it with “despite” in order to avoid the emotional trauma.

  5. So what terms do you prefer over “partner” and “impact”?

  6. So what terms do you prefer over “partner” and “impact”?

  7. I should point out that it doesn’t matter what words I prefer. Nor what words you prefer. If a word you hate is one your donors commonly use, then it’s not a bad word.
    I’d be awfully surprised if any group of donors actually use “partner” as a verb. But it’s possible.
    The key is to listen to donors. Write they way they talk. Don’t let your personal preferences be your guide.

  8. I should point out that it doesn’t matter what words I prefer. Nor what words you prefer. If a word you hate is one your donors commonly use, then it’s not a bad word.
    I’d be awfully surprised if any group of donors actually use “partner” as a verb. But it’s possible.
    The key is to listen to donors. Write they way they talk. Don’t let your personal preferences be your guide.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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