February 8, 2008

East or west, left or right?

While driving around looking for an address the other day, my husband made an observation.

He pointed out that when someone gives directions to a visitor to an unfamiliar city, east and west are meaningless unless you know the area.

For example, Santa Barbara has south-facing beaches and our mountains are to the north. It helps to know this if someone tells you to go east or west. We also have a designated "east side" and "west side," but unless you live here, you don't know where those parts of town actually are until someone tells you.

However, everyone understands left and right.

When you're giving a presentation, are you giving "east and west" directions or "left and right" directions? That is, are you using universal language that anyone can understand or are you clouding your message with insider lingo and jargon that only a few can comprehend?

Always make sure you're using the most common and universal terms that most people understand - make sure you're speaking the audience's language.

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6 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Actually, I DON'T understand left and right. I never have. (borderline dyslexic??)

I'll take east and west any day. I learned how to read a map when I was about 7 years old (most probably because I could never figure out left and right!)

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Hahaha - good point, Jacki. What does someone do who doesn't get east/west OR left/right?!

Rhett Laubach said...

Lisa, here is my take on this...



Lisa Braithwaite said...

Rhett, I think it also depends on how good a person is in general at giving directions. When I give left/right directions, I give a starting point. So I know exactly where they're coming from and where they're going. Landmarks are also helpful, whether you're an east/wester or a left/righter!

Now if you're traveling without a map, how exactly do you know east from west without a compass?

Anonymous said...

If you don't get left/right or east/west you navigate by landmarks.

eg. At the corner where the red cattle barn is, turn towards it. Then when you get to the four-way stop, turn away from the 4 silos. Then drive until you get to a junction where there are no landmarks and turn there.

It works. I have a friend that knows I don't know left/right and she doesn't know east/west. We have no problem giving each other directions.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Yeah, landmarks are definitely good.

I've known several people lived in a place for many years and still don't know the names of the streets. Landmarks are the only way they can give directions.

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