Please Wipe My “Eyes” (Or Things That Get Lost In Translation)

Several weeks ago I introduced you to my brother Frits. He always had great insights and was able to see the humorous side of things. For those new to my blog, Frits had muscular dystrophy, so was confined to a wheelchair for much of his life. He passed away in 2003. Here’s a short story I loved to hear him tell (in Frits’ words):

A couple years ago (in 2001), I had a Hispanic nurse with a fairly heavy accent.  It was morning, and as is often the case, I needed to wipe my eyes.  So I asked Mildred (not her real name), “Will you please wipe my eyes?” So, she goes to the closet to get some tissue but she also comes back with a couple of gloves.  I thought nothing of it because I figured some people would rather use a glove.  But, then, she goes to start turning me over.  Confused, I said again, and “I need to wipe my eyes,” trying to emphasize my words very clearly so she could understand me better.  Again, she starts to turn me over again.  I say, no, I need to wipe my eyes.  Then, all of a sudden she starts to laugh.  She finally understood me.  Amongst her laughing, she said to me that she thought I had said, “I need to wipe my a**.”  Very funny.

So much can be lost in translation.

When you describe what your organization does and the issues you address, what type of words are you using? Do you use a lot of acronyms? Buzz words that only those in your industry understand? Terms like recidivism, myocardial infarction, planned giving, etc.?

As you’re putting together your materials, let someone who is not in your industry read it and give you feedback. Better yet, tell a fifth grader what you do – then write that down and use it instead. It doesn’t mean talking down to your readers, simply making it easier for them to read.

Here’s a bonus tip on your materials: always have a call to action. A call to action means one call to action (otherwise it get buried and then readers are not always sure what you want them to do). Deep down, I think everyone wants to help (yes you can call me naïve or too optimistic – I won’t change my mind on this). So make it clear what you’re looking for, make it easy to respond, and be sure to say thank you (often).

Those are just a few thoughts to help you get started. Would you like more information about case statements and building excitement around what you do?


Please Wipe My “Eyes” (Or Things That Get Lost In Translation) — 3 Comments

    • Thanks Gayle. While it was sad to see him go, I have so many great memories. His humor was infectious and his perspective was inspirational – always pushing me to try a little harder and pay forward a little more.