In Praise of Plain Speech

A top view of an apple pie with a slice removed on a white background.  The flaky, golden crust invites the viewer to reminisce.  The pie sits in a foil tin with one slice taken out leaving behind traces of the pie.  Pie filling just barely oozes out of the edges, leaving one to wonder who took the slice?

Is it just me or is everyone triangulating lately? At work, on the train, in a volunteer meeting, people want to triangulate. “Maybe we should triangulate.” “Let’s triangulate.” “If it helps you triangulate…” It doesn’t.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of triangulate is

  • to survey, map, or determine by triangulation
  • to give triangular form to
  • to divide into triangles

I got a bad haircut last week. More triangulation.

In my humble opinion, the only times you should triangulate are while doing geometry or sharing dessert. If there’s no pi or pie, there is no need to use the word triangulate.

When business-speak creeps into a corporate culture, it is difficult to remove. Phrases come and go, sure. Taking it offline eventually gets replaced by circling back. People stop peeling back the onion in favor of a deep dive. We allow a little geometry into the office and suddenly we’re not just triangulating and circling, we’re parallel pathing too. We hit the ground running and next thing you know we’re playing insider baseball while carrying the ball down the field and touching base- hopefully while staying in our swim lanes. It’s just par for the course.

As professional communicators, we should work to rid our offices of jargon because words matter; they’re powerful.  And the most powerful words of all are the simple ones. Think about it. How much more impact is there in this sentence:

I can’t meet that deadline. Can I get it to you Thursday?


I don’t have the bandwidth. Can we revisit the topic?


We have some ideas.


We ideated.


I agree with John.


To piggyback on what John said…

It takes skill and confidence to speak simply and with intention. As communicators, that’s what we’re paid for. So “let’s get the ball rolling.” This is a “no brainer.” In fact, it’s a “win-win.” So just do it.