The English language is constantly evolving – and that’s a wonderful thing.
It also means that new words are constantly entering the lexicon, which can confuse readers unless these words are introduced properly.
So, should you add that new word to your writer’s vocabulary? The answer depends on who you’re writing for.
The difference between young adults and tweetstorms
The terms “young adult” and “live blog” were just added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013, but you wouldn’t bat an eye at seeing them in print today. In fact, by the time a new term makes it into the dictionary, it’s generally already in common use.
On the other hand, just because you can find something in the dictionary, doesn’t mean it belongs in your writing.
Whether you’re writing a formal whitepaper or an informal blog post, you can feel pretty comfortable about using the term “young adult” at this point.
But what about “tweetstorm,” “crowdsourcing” or “FOMO”? Even if you’re sure your audience will understand these newer terms, most formal types of communication aren’t quite ready for them.
If you’re aiming for a friendly, conversational tone, go ahead and use newer terms to liven up your writing. Just be sure that the term is relevant and that you always define it in first use if you’re audience won’t understand it. (You may need to point out that FOMO means “fear of missing out.”)
Go ahead and use newer terms to liven up your writing. Just be sure that the term is relevant and that you always define it in first use if you’re audience won’t understand it.
New words in formal prose
Even in a more formal context, new words enter the lexicon. We’re seeing terms like “blockchain” and “regtech” increasingly showing up in whitepapers and brochures. These aren’t terms most people were familiar with a few years ago, but now they’ve entered the mainstream.
That means avoiding them in your writing could be a challenge. And if you’re in the financial services industry, it wouldn’t make much sense. Do, however, take the time to define these types of newer terms unless you’re sure your audience will know what they mean.
Remember that people outside of your industry may need more time to pick up industry-specific terminology.