Watch Your Language!

=IF(ISERROR(VLOOKUP(A2, ‘SHEET 1’$A$2:$Z$2000, 5, FALSE)), “—“, VLOOKUP(A2, ‘SHEET 1’$A$2:$Z$2000, 5, FALSE))
Can anyone give me some details about the above formula? Is it

A. The Theory of Relativity
C. An Excel spreadsheet formula
D. Gobbledeegook-it doesn’t mean a thing

If you said C. then you’d be correct-it is a type of spreadsheet formula. I deal with them a lot so I look at the above statement and immediately understand what it’s saying. I’m familiar with its structure, logical sequencing, etc. Aside from communicating information Excel formulas (and all languages for that matter) attempt to accomplish an action. It can be explicit, implicit, or both. In the case of the above formula it attempts to return a value based on a defined criteria. In a less esoteric context, it’s the difference between saying “Go get me something from the store.” and saying “Go to Store X right now, find and buy Product Y, and bring it to me within the hour.” See the difference? The 1st statement is vague and allows the reader a lot of leeway in terms of interpretation and action. The 2nd statement is more specific, establishes a strong connection between the sender and receiver, and will prompt a specific set of actions (in this case, going to Store X and buying Product Y) from the receiver.

If you said D. though, you could also be correct depending on the context. If you don’t work with spreadsheets then the statement has no meaning and will not prompt an action from you. It’s inert and useless. Without that context there’s no experience and the information is worthless.

As I continue to move forward with my life as a blogger, husband, professional, etc., I have to remember that sharing information is not the same as creating an experience. Sending out random tweets is a good example. I also have to make sure that my words are clear, as they have the potential (much like a spreadsheet formula) to generate action. That’s an exciting power that most people don’t realize they have.

What are your thoughts on language? Let me know by leaving a comment!

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