Languages evolve. New words appear, we start using them, they eventually make their way into the dictionaries, and are thus vouched for. Until that point, new words are o sort of mambo jumbo for a lot of people. We all remember when the very common verb ‘to google’ first appeared in the dictionary. It then continued with blog, blogger, tweet, woot, sexting, bromance, and other words that have recently made their way into our every day chats.
PR professionals and communication experts have an interesting position when it comes to these new words, especially when they focus on the online part of their profession. On one hand, we have netizens who expect us to address them in their own manner of speaking and writing, on the other we have serious business people that expect the utmost professionalism when being reached out to, which includes correct use of language and grammar. Officially, until they are introduced in the dictionaries and accepted as real words, what we’re using is not clean English (or what ever other language you address them in).
So what is there to do? Use quotation marks or italics when using an unconventional word? Promote new words and lobby to get them accepted faster? Go the way the media and journalists go? They are easier to handle as they do adopt new words soon after their audience starts using them.
The truth is there is no right choice. A PR professional will always have to adapt their speech to the audience they are addressing at one point or another. You won’t be strict about choice of dictionary approved terminology when addressing a group of online youngsters that expect you to translate everything to include the specifics of their always connected virtual lives, with all the smiley faces that entails. You won’t put a ton of the same smiley faces in an email to a General Manager of a company you want to land as a client. When addressing teachers and professors who are particular about word usage, you might be careful about your own linguistic choices.
But no matter what, a PR pro needs to quickly and constantly adapt to new words and trends. Because you will ‘plus one’ something, you will tweet and skype and google and that’s not all that you will do!