Business Lexicon

Transform the value of your business lexicon by creating it as a dictionary

You have a lexicon. You might be using now, it to parse this email. And to the extent that you use it in business, you have a business lexicon.

But can your customers see it? Probably not, because most of us divulge our lexicon only in conversation or written work communication, like email or Slack.

If your business lexicon is an asset, how much is it worth? How much value does it add to your business?

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The words in your business lexicon are mental definitions. To the extent these definitions have any value at all, they have two essential qualities:

First, they are instantly accessible to you, as if from muscle memory. Otherwise, they’re not very useful to you as business assets. To own them, I recommend actually memorizing them and practicing reciting them. Protip: if you wear a mask as you do this, people won’t think you are talking to yourself (:

Second, they define a word or term differently, in ways others won’t expect. A business strategy that lacks surprise does not inspire action. Messaging that lacks surprise makes your marketing boring, vague, or unoriginal.

These two qualifiers narrow it down; your business lexicon might consist of just a dozen definitions. Or who knows, 2 or 3.

And this changes. Your lexicon today is similar, if not identical, to the one you had a month ago. And not at all similar to the one you had 10 years ago.

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When you write your business lexicon down into definitions, now people can see it. This increases its value to you, so I want to quickly put down a “how to”.

First, you don’t need any of the academic stuff, like:

  • a formal education in lexicography, which is a fancy way to say, “the practice of making dictionaries”. 
  • training in “lexicographic praxis”, like how to conduct lexicographic research.
  • an understanding of metalexicography or lexicographic criticism.
  • transnational or multilingual perspectives on lexicography.

I mean, a lexicography degree can’t hurt. But you don’t need it. It might even get in your way, because you’re making a different kind of dictionary.

So what do you need? Here’s what is helpful:

  • to know who your definitions are for
  • to know how they’ll help them understand your business
  • to ignore almost all senses of a word except for one (maybe two with edge cases..)
  • depth – it’s cute to write a short, pithy definition but not always very useful
  • putting your definitions adjacent to one another, in some way

On that last note, your definitions could be presented as a series of blog posts or podcasts. It could be a tag of some kind on your tweets or LinkedIn posts. It doesn’t have to be presented as a dictionary; it just has to be navigable as a collection of definitions.

And these definitions could be implied and subtle rather than explicit. I’m learning from my current research,a the de facto dictionaries innate to business publications, that definitions don’t always get presented to you as such.

You could use metaphors, visual diagrams, or the easiest and most useful hack of all, anti-definitions: defining what it isn’t. 

Let me know the most important word in your business lexicon and how you’d define it.

And have a terrific weekend