Want them to listen and understand? Speak in their language

This past week, I attended the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations’ (NCMPR) National Conference in San Francisco, CA. There were so many great presentations and a lot of value gained by listening to one another’s questions and answers during discussions and breaks.

One of those unplanned lessons from this conference was that students don’t have a clue what some of the words we are using in higher education marketing mean. I think, deep down, we all knew this, but we needed someone to remind us.

The first revelation of this came when during a presentation on student retention. The presenter mentioned that he tries to avoid words such as “retention” and “cohort” in all of their marketing. Why? Because even though they are academically the correct terms to use to define what we are describing, college students don’t understand them. “What do you use instead of cohorts?” I asked during Q & A. “Um, groups?” said the presenter with a smirk. That sparked a group laugh and a three day conversation among many of us about what other words we were using that our students don’t understand.

In honor of our “revelation,” check out University of Chicago Writing Program’s Write Your Own Academic Sentence tool that allows you to create your own fun, wordy sentences.


Some of my favorites are:

  • “The fiction of normative value(s) is virtually coextensive with the systemization of the public sphere.”
  • “The (re)formation of the specular economy is homologous with the authentication of consumption.”
  • “The culture of normative value(s) may be parsed as the historicization of linguistic transparency.”


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