Choose your words carefully

In linguistics, words that are spelled and said the same but have two different meanings are called homonyms. Often, it’s the context that gives the game away. For example, if I told you I’d been on a date, you’re more likely to imagine a candlelit dinner than me standing on top of a fruit.

By Leah Elston-Thompson, senior account executive.

Homonyms are common in the English language, think about the double meanings of the words bark, current and band.  In everyday conversation, the context is what reveals the intended meaning to the listener. When discussing or writing about science, engineering or technology, it’s not always that simple.

Lots of common phrases can be interpreted differently by a scientific mind. Take the phrase ‘steep learning curve’. Though the phrase means something that is challenging to learn, a steep curve, with a large positive gradient, could suggest an easy task.

For a marketeer writing technical content, it’s important to be aware that these double meanings exist to avoid misusing language and confusing your audience.

On the flipside, engineers and scientists must also watch out for homonyms to make sure their audience understands their explanation of what may be a complex subject.  One word that can be mistranslated is ‘significant’ — if you mean statistical significance, not just that something is important, you should clarify this.

Using the right language comes down to knowing your audience. No matter your background, in content PR, if you write with your reader in mind, you’ll avoid making slip ups that could end up being misinterpreted.

At Stone Junction, a third of our team is qualified to degree level in a science, technology, engineering or maths discipline. This helps us to translate your technical know-how into material for a range of audiences.

If you’re looking for a PR agency that knows its scientific terms, call Stone Junction on 01785 224416 or e-mail me at 

Leah Elston-Thompson

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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