The dictionary definition of oxymoron is, “a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in “cruel kindness” or “to make haste slowly.” In English that means, two words that contradict each other. One of the most common examples, other than “jumbo shrimp” is “military intelligence.”

I think most of us who have served in the military would admit that we’ve seen our leaders do things that sometimes gave us pause. However, overall, there are many examples of methods and procedures that have probably been responsible for saving the lives of some of you reading this.

Communication Confusion

Communication in the military can save lives; in business it can save the business. When talking to customers, either in marking or advertising, — communication is key. For example, “We attack at 8:00 o’clock.” You would never hear that command in the military. Half the squads would show up at 8:00 AM and half at 8:00 PM. So the military came up with a way to eliminate any confusion that might come up about telling time. Now the command would be, “We attack at 20:00 (twenty-hundred hours).”

Another example would be the alphabet. A “b” sounds a lot like a “c” when talking over a radio. So again, the powers that be came up with ways to reduce communication mistakes by using words to differentiate between letters. So “b” becomes “Bravo” and “c” becomes “Charlie.”

One Word Can Make All the Difference

Like many of you, I love a good game of golf. I like being outdoors, fresh air, exercise, hearing the click of the ball against the club. I could probably be a scratch golfer if I could just play more. However, like some of you, I have a great round going and all of a sudden there is that one hole that ruins my total score. So I have a question for the golfers who are reading this. “How do you get the ball through those windmill blades?” “Is that a timing thing?”

How many of you were out on the big golf course while I was telling that story? Did each of us think we were clearly communicating? I left out ONE word, “miniature,” that completely changed the story so we were not communicating clearly. We both thought we were on the same page, but leaving out that one word created an assumption that was entirely different for each of us.

Clear Up the Confusion

Look through any newspaper and you will probably find several instances of typo’s and other mistakes in ads for all kinds of businesses. I’m sorry but there is absolutely no excuse for this. If you are not proofing your ads then you get what you deserve.

Some Final Thoughts

Here’s what to take away today. Have you ever tried to explain what’s wrong with your car to your mechanic? “It’s the thingamajig that bangs that big thing over there.” Seems clear enough and sometimes it even makes sense to my mechanic. Every business has its own language. Industry “buzz words” and acronyms abound. We sometimes use these terms without a second thought? We assume since we know what they mean everyone must.

Revisit my golf story above. Are you clearly communicating with your customer? Or, are you asking them to somehow interpret what you mean? Business owners often forget whom they are talking to. They often talk about their business instead of talking to the customer. You are in business to solve a customer’s problem. Customers who have that problem are desperately trying to find you. Confusing ads slow that process and damage your business. So, what time are you attacking today??