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Watch Word Differences

A Wednesday Whimsy Regarding Words

Watch your words, we are admonished since childhood. Over many years, I have added this guidance: watch for the differences in what words mean. If I ask a grant seeker, for example, “What are your measurable and quantitative objectives?” am I making a distinction between measurable and quantitative, or do I just want to appear erudite by including two words that mean the same thing?

In the current focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice the stakes are much higher when it comes to language. In these terms, I sense substantial differences in meanings, which brings far more richness to conversation than an assumption that the words simply pile on to create a critical mass needed to right a big wrong.

A quick example—equity and equality. As I understand it, equality means giving everyone the same resources. Equity means distributing resources disproportionately such as to achieve the same outcome for everyone. Circumstances may not factor in equality but they sure apply to equity. This distinction also raises important questions on means and ends. Not to be pointy headed this Wednesday. Just to say that such distinctions enrich discussion.

By Hal's Results First

Hal Williams 
Outcome Guide

… is a resource for foundations,
governments, and nonprofit
organizations that seek to define,
track, verify, and communicate the
results they achieve.

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