Define terms for outsiders.

When I was in grade school, we did an assignment where we were asked to define terms clearly enough for someone learning our language. To define "tree" as "a plant that grows from the ground," we first needed to define "plant," "grow," and "ground."

It was an important lesson to start to understand the interconnectivity of language. I like to apply this kind of thinking in my work to uncover terms that are nested within other terms and their definitions.

To define a term clearly:

  1. Write down the meaning of the term as simply as you can.
  2. Underline each term within your definition that needs to be further defined.
  3. Define those terms and test your definition with someone who doesn't know those terms yet.
  4. Look at each individual word and ask yourself: What does this mean? Is it as simple as possible?


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