For Show or for Blow


HandkerchiefHandkerchiefs are typically for either accessorizing our clothes or more “practical” use.  In other words, they are likely “for show or for blow!”

The same can be said for words.  Some are decorative.  Others are very practical.  We have many different words to describe the same things.

Know what?  That is okay.  Sometimes our world needs a bit of decoration, spice, light, and fascination.  Other times, a practical and efficient message is ideal.

It can depend on the situation.  A tale of fantastic travels should not sound like the wording from a dishwasher repair manual.  Or vice versa.

“The young man, dark and somber, guided the damaged, listing ship carefully into port,” creates a picture better than, “The sad male moved the boat into the dock.”

“Use the four flat-head screws in the remaining holes to secure the panel,” is more efficient and effective than, “Grasping the slender screw driver, twist the shiny screws deep into the special crevices until the lush wood panel is tight and secure, like a tree of a thousand years.”

Effective communication is not just about the right words.  It is about the right words for the message.

Choose your words with forethought and purpose.  Vary your words to the context of the discussion or message.  Consider the audience, the goals of the message and the task at hand. 

Paint pictures with your words, but select words that are appropriate.   And, of course, remember to only paint with words the audience understands, lest your “painting” go unappreciated or even unconsumed!


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.  Glenn S. Phillips and Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.