Watch your language

Ducks promenading along the wall outside King's College

Guest blog by Simon Hall

Choosing the right words can make the difference between success and failure if you're looking for a job, to appoint a member of staff, trying to persuade and inspire, and so many other things.

One of the wonders of words is how subtle distinctions can make huge differences.

Which means a few seconds' thought about your choice of language can reap big benefits. 

Here's an example - 

Thames Water inadvertently carried out an experiment in the power of words when they advertised for a job. 

The original wording went like this - 

Are you a confident sewage champion who can see off the competition to land your dream job? You should have a background in an industrial setting to help ensure sewage is treated effectively and efficiently.

Seems ok? Does the trick? Says what the job is and the kind of person they want?

But here's the rub - 

What percentage of applicants do you think were women? 

The answer...

Eight. Just 8 per cent. 

Which is a worry. Because it suggests the company is missing out on a very large pool of talent, one of which might just be the perfect candidate.

So they rephrased the advert along these lines - 

This is an excellent opportunity to make a real impact on the delivery of wholesome water. Join a team with a close knit family feel. We welcome people who want to learn and be team players, and offer mentoring support to help you feel at home.

This time, what percentage of applicants were women?

The answer... with a drum roll... 46 per cent. 

What a difference a choice of words can make. 

Make your language warm, inclusive and positive, and - surprise, surprise - you get better results. 


I'll leave these thoughts by guiding you to a favourite photo from the Covid crisis, which I've added to this musing. 

The iconic King's College, taken over by ducks. 

A sharp illustration of the shutdown of society, or an invitation for us to appreciate nature and this wonderful world of ours a little more?


I'm a tutor, lecturer and coach in Communications and Business Skills at the University of Cambridge. I also run my own media, public relations and design consultancy, Creative Warehouse, work in government, and across the private and public sectors.
I can offer communications support in all areas, including:
Branding, reports, investment pitches, presentations and speech writing ~ Conventional and social media ~ Websites ~ Photography and videography ~ Public speaking ~ Crisis communications ~ Building your personal brand

Simon Hall Communications