One Less Word Challenge (#onelessword)

One Less Word

Just like the Information Diet challenges us to become more conscious consumers of info, I’d like to challenge us to become more conscious users of words.

I mean, let’s get real: We’re awash in words.  The question is are we using the very best words to connect and engage? Hmmmm…probably not.

That’s why I am cordially inviting you to join me in the One Less Word Challenge (#onelessword). I did this challenge last year with the word ‘non-profit’. It’s hard. It’s also extremely effective.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify a word you use a lot and probably shouldn’t. (Feel free to pluck from one of the Top 5 Words to Avoid to Achieve Messaging Awesomeness.)
  2. Pick a week and don’t use the word for that entire week (seven straight days, including weekends!).
  3. Keep track of the words you use instead.
  4. Share what you learn in the comments below and/or by using #onelessword on Twitter.
At the end of February, I’ll cull through everything and share what we collectively learned.
What’s your word going to be?


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  1. My word will be “prospect.” I was thinking of the labels we give people in the fundraising arena -particularly the words “prospect” and the dreaded “suspect.” they depersonalize the people. I’m thinking of using “supporters” or “future supporters” or not talking in group-speak. Your early tweet got my attention… Great idea! ~ FundraiserBeth

    • @FundraiserBeth That’s a really good one! Steering clear of group-speak takes it to a new level.

      • Erica – part of the reason I chose prospect is that I was going to be speaking with foundation about building a program, and NOT using prospect was pretty challenging! But talking about including the community, new supporters, advocates and champions, creating new support from men and women who had been served sounds a lot more humanizing than speaking about the “non-person” prospect. Good exercise!

  2. Very interesting concept. I like the idea of find alternative words for ‘provide’. I think so many more charities can do this much better. Great post!

  3. One word: “awareness.” Two words: “raising awareness.” If I’m going to raise something, it should be a) action, b) money 🙂

  4. Great idea! A word diet! I wish nonprofits would drop words like “population” and “continuum of care”. Nobody in the rest of the world knows what those mean.

    Sandy Rees

  5. In my business the word ‘insight’ is so overused, that i hope some of my MR colleagues will take this challenge!

  6. I choose “Se conciente ” (be aware) in spanish since I speak it as my native language 🙂

    • Can’t wait to see what Spanish words you use instead. Thanks for expanding the channel to other languages, Ingrid!

  7. I love this idea! It’s amazing how quickly simple words can become what I call “personal jargon”—a term that may or may not be overused in the industry but that you use as a linchpin in your speaking and writing without unpacking it to consider why it’s relevant here in this moment. Chrisine’s so right…awareness raising isn’t a useful term when we really mean action-raising or fundraising. In my case, I overuse the word “value” when I could be describing or defining the value I’m referring to.

    Can I go a whole week without saying “value”? Taking bets…

  8. Well, over the years I’ve removed try, can’t and should from my vocabulary…now my goal is to remove those words from my clients vocabulary! It’s proving to be more challenging than I anticipated. Language of scarcity lingers…thanks for this fun post Erica!

    • “Try” is a fence-sitter of a term–you’re either doing it or you’re not! Your comment about the language of scarcity is important. Deficit-based language outpaces asset-based. Such a bummer. Thanks for helping to turn that ship, Lori!

  9. I’ve already done this. “Nice.” It’s so commonplace. Replaced with thoughtful, pleasant, generous, loving, giving and other more descriptive words. Cool idea, Erica.

  10. Karyn McKelvey says:

    Thanks Erica, this is great motivation to enhance my writing! I’m torn between cutting out “provide,” “support” or “self-sufficiency” as these are interwoven into our health and human services fundraising dialect. Maybe I’ll have to do a few weeks of this exercise. Hmmmm. Am challening my team too, will report back! 🙂

    • They really are interwoven for you, aren’t they? Wow, I’m going to be really interested to hear/see how you change it up, Karyn. Will look forward to your report!

  11. Rick J Blount says:

    “Transformational.” But this is going to require a real…um…change.

  12. “Disaggregate.” EduSpeak for “break down the data” or “look more closely at the data.” Why can’t we just say that?Let’s take a poll… and then NOT disaggregate the results!

  13. Let’s see… “capacity” “roll out” “change management” come to mind. A colleague suggested “catalyze”. If the goal is to be more conscious of our word choices and use words that are the very best for connecting and engaging, then I’m going to try a “capacity building” diet. Next week. Cold turkey. I’m tempted to go say it 50 times right now to get it out of my system…

  14. Lindsay Bealko says:

    There are two words I overuse and more creative options for both. This will be hard, but I’ll try reengineering my statements using the words 1) Effective and 2) Impact. Both will be hard, but impact will be the toughy. but I feel we as a sector (both on the funding side and the receiving side) have started using impact so much that it now sounds trite and is a broadbrush replacement for understanding what the real results of our eff…. er, productive work will be. 🙂 IT’S ON!

  15. I overuse the word commit. I’m committed to not using…, Mmmm.
    I promise to not use the word commit. Thanks Erica!


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