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‘Adroit’ vs. ‘Expert’: A Little Advice from William Butler Yeats

The Experts
Image credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Which of the following is better?

  1. Being adroit at something.
  2. Being an expert at something.

I guess the answer may depend on what that “something” is. If a customer is looking for a logophile or a linguist, he or she would surely seek out the adroit. But in many cases, what people really want is an expert.

In case you are wondering, yes, I am aware that adroit means expert. My point is not the definition of the term, but the ease of understanding it brings.

To help explain, I’ll go to my favorite quote: William Butler Yeats said, “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” [emphasis added]

Choosing a term like adroit may make me feel good about the hours I spent studying for vocabulary tests, but is it a word that will resonate with my audience? If they are college-educated, the answer is likely yes. But, if I am targeting a less-educated crowd, the word may in fact be off-putting.

This is a wonderful example of why it is important to know who makes up your target audience. Who are your readers? What are their ages? What is their educational level?

In your business, do they need to be confident in your superior intellect or might they prefer language that is more easily understood? How much do they know about your industry or your company? Should you define your industry’s terminology for them or would that be insulting?

At the heart of my role as a freelance writer and editor is helping clients address their audience in the most appropriate manner. Defining the audience for a project must be done early on in all communication efforts. It defines parameters for many later decisions, ranging from word choice to design style.

What about you? What other key questions can you identify that you should answer about your audience before starting a conversation with them?


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