Stop waffling! Here’s how to strengthen your language

Many PR professionals hedge their statements with weak words when speaking to the press. Learn how to put an end to the practice.

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Like Truman’s economists, too many media spokespersons hedge their statements with weak words, burying important content in the language of uncertainty.

For example, consider the contrast between these two quotes:

Version 1: “We think there are a lot of important charities that people can contribute to, but we hope that people will give to ours, since we believe we are providing an important service for Cincinnati’s homeless population.”

Version 2: “Cincinnati’s homeless have fewer shelters available to them than at any other time in the past 30 years, and we’re asking all local residents to make a donation immediately to make sure our city’s homeless have the warm shelter and food they need to survive this cold winter.”

The first version fails because it is dominated by the language of uncertainty—”we think,” “we hope,” and “we believe.” Quote two, on the other hand, uses strong phrases and words such as, “at any other time,” “immediately,” and “need.”

Spokespersons working in technical fields are notorious for their never-ending use of hedged language. Afraid to say anything definitive, they water down their messages into a tentative mush that ends up saying nothing at all.

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