Orangeville, ON (Caroline Davis) A landscape architect told me he would redesign our embankment to make it less prone to erosion, but I and my neighbours had different ideas about what he meant by “sustainable.”  

One person thought it meant the slope wouldn’t need to be maintained, so they wouldn’t have to truck in new soil. I said it would be “sustainable.” Others said it referred to the overall impact of the design – a lot different. Both were fair interpretations.

It just shows how easy it is for less commonly used words to be misunderstood. We didn’t stop to think that the landscape architect’s word might be ambiguous, since he knew exactly what he meant.  

When it comes to words, keep in mind that clients can have different reference points, making certain words tricky. A “negative” result, for instance, may seem like a bad result to them, but it’s actually the good one.

Make sure you repeat your key points more than once, and use other words and as little professional jargon as you can.