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Unintended meanings

I was recently reminded that it is important to take care not to communicate anything different to your words and intentions. That is, your words may tell one story but the context will also communicate a message and you want them to match.

A sign in our motel during last week’s trip to Canberra read

Due to “health regulations” no pets allowed in rooms

The quotation marks are completely unnecessary and mean either the person writing the sign didn’t know that (not a great message to send out, but common enough) or they were making a point about the regulations. That is, the writer thinks the regulations are silly, inappropriate, ineffective, irrelevant or such and therefore calls them “regulations’ to point out they are not well accepted.

Maybe disagreeing with the regulations shows some support of pets and pet lovers, but to me it is not very professional or reassuring. If you have no respect for the regulations, how can I be sure you are sticking to them in ways I would want you to? If a health inspector visits, how will they respond to implications of inferior regulations?

When you consider every word you write, remember to also consider the surrounding details such as punctuation, images and placement so that you are not giving any unintended messages.

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