Ep 86: To use or not to use: values as a filter for word choice

On this episode of Communicate for Good, Erica gives thanks to a woman for sending in her insightful note regarding one of Claxon Communication’s resources, The Wordifier. Her note acknowledges that when we talk about language and our choice in words we are doing ourselves a disservice if the sole metric of our choice is to measure the overuse and frequency in those words. We must also be considering inclusive, identity and people first language and that as communicators we are charged with asking – what do we need to say and how can we do better?

Erica also discusses the power behind tools such as The Wordifier and Generative AI for sourcing words, but also the importance in applying human discernment when ultimately choosing words from these tools.

Resources referenced:

The Wordifier



This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


words, generative, discernment, AI, liz , communication, tool, language, verb, note, podcast, widget, novelty, communicate, alignment, filter, overuse

Welcome to the Communicate for Good podcast, where leaders on a mission to make the world a better place come to talk and learn about how communication language and words can help increase awareness of revenue and impact. With less stress and more joy. I’m your host Erica Mills Barnhart and I’m so excited. You’re here with me. Let’s dive right in.

Welcome to the Communicate for Good podcast. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m Erica Barnhart. I am your host. I got a really insightful, beautiful note from a woman who had used The Wordifier. Her name is Liz, I’ll just leave it there because I don’t know if she wants her note to be attributed to her fully or not. It is so beautiful. Liz, if you’re listening, this is for you, and also your insights that you offer here are for all listeners. I’m going to read what she sent and then sort of comment on it and offer my thoughts. She says, “Thank you for helpful communications guidance. The Wordifier is a hoot. While I appreciate the breadth the widget covers about over-used words, I believe you might be missing something. If we talk about language, we must consider inclusive, identity, and people first language. For example, I entered the words these are all in quotations “dumb, retarded and power out” in the widget. These words are problematic in today’s communication. The Wordifier had no problem with these words. As a communicator, we know these words and many others are no longer appropriate. Dumb is ableist linking ability and intelligence. Retarded is a slur powwow, a racist culture. While we are right to measure overuse and frequency, we do ourselves a disservice if that is the sole metric. As communicators, we’re charged with asking and questioning what do we need to say? How can we do better? Our language evolves, our knowledge grows, thank you for this opportunity to share another perspective.”

I appreciate this so much, because it reminds me that I need to do better in being clear about what a tool like the Wordifier can and can’t be useful in terms of in terms of its advice. I’m sort of quoting, that because the Wordifier is of course just a tool. It’s not a human. If you’re not familiar with The Wordifier, let me just bring you up to speed – you can go to Wordifier.com and it will be in the show notes. You can put in a word, let’s say provide which is the lamest verb on the planet, per other episodes, we can always do better. What I’m gonna say about provide is, to just give you a little red flag, is that it is really extensively used specifically by nonprofits. The research behind this tool was it is specific to nonprofits, although language usage can be so generalized, but the intent with The Wordifier was to find out are there words or what words might you be able to to use so that you would pique someone’s interest. That word would just sort of open up the reticular activating system because of novelty, meaning because a word was used less often than other options. Now you need to do this. This is like pepper in these words, you don’t want a slew of not very often used words because then you make these confusing, so can you switch up a verb? Can you put in a more interesting adjective? This is a tool that is laser-focused more like surgery, right? Her point, is that the only thing it’s saying is whether or not it’s going to be noticed more because it is used more or less often. It cannot stand in at all. It does not serve you in any way, as a filter for values, as a filter for integrity, as a filter for being in alignment with what you stand for and what you believe in. It does not do that job, so I need to do a much better job of being more consistent in terms of elevating that and saying this is what it can do. Her examples are so fabulous and wonderful, because obviously those aren’t words that that I would recommend you use, that she would recommend you use, that those who value anti-racism and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion would recommend you use, and so there is a layer of discernment that you must bring in when you’re using at tool like The Wordifier.

This is a similar discernment skill that you need with Generative AI. Right? We’re entering this era where generative AI is not going anywhere. It is here and it is here to stay. It can be powerful, really powerful. Power goes both ways because it can have a negative impact. There’s some really strategic ways to use Generative AI. It does not replace human discernment. It does not have a heart. I am hoping soon to have people who are more expert in Generative AI come on so that they can share their perspective and knowledge with us, because if you care about words and you care about making the world a better place, we got to get real about where things are going with AI. I wanted to say thank you so much to Liz for raising this issue. Liz, you have helped me do better, and I hope anyone who uses The Wordifier do a bit better if you weren’t already, because if these words are not used very often, it would however be super bad news if the words that she pointed out were used often enough that they have lost their novelty. It doesn’t mean they’re not in use or they are not in circulation, but did they get your attention? Yeah, you might even felt your heart pick up a little bit when I said them. Does that mean that those are words that you want to use? No, no, it doesn’t mean that at all. 

Use The Wordifier and these tools to communicate as effectively, compassionately, and inclusively as possible. That means, keeping them in alignment with your values and always having that as a filter, front and center. Again, Liz, thank you so, so much for taking the time to write to send me that lovely note. I know these things take time and you’re likely busy. Thank you listeners for your continued commitment to use the words to make the world a better place. Do good be well, and I will see you next time.

Thank you for listening to the Communicate for Good podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, I would so appreciate it if you would right here right now. Go rate and review the podcast. Your review will help even more purpose driven leaders, teams and organizations. Learn how to use words to change the world. To find more ways that communication can help you increase awareness, revenue and impact. Head on over to www.claxon.communication.com

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?