Real Words that Work - You say cottage, I say…

By Patricia Davies, President, Patricia Davies Communications  

You say cottage, I say...
A recent letter to Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail related this story: Dr. Roy Wolfe, a Canadian geographer specializing in transportation issues, gave an hour-long lecture in Florida about the impact of cars travelling to Ontario’s cottage country on the province’s highway system. When he finished, the first question from the hall was: “What is a cottage?” 


Know your audience. The fastest way to stop people reading or listening is to use terms (or acronyms, see last month’s column in BA Connection) they don’t understand. Many technical and financial specialists think explaining terminology is a “dumbing-down” exercise. It is really a “lifting-to-the-next-level” action that includes all the people they need to influence, not just their peers. 


As the writer, you are responsible for filling your readers’ or listeners’ needs, not the other way around. Be kind to them, and make sure you aren’t excluding them from the conversation, whatever it’s about. Dr. Wolfe could have explained that in Eastern Canada a cottage is a rural vacation house often by a lake. 

Patricia Davies is an award-winning writer and editor, an Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) with IIBA®, and a regular panelist on the IIBA “Being a BA: Effective Communication: Webinar (first Tuesday of every month). Have you got a writing question? Please email to and we’ll try to address it in a future column or Webinar.