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Pay Close Attention to the Words You Use In Labels

The words in the labels will make or break the mental model. Here is some advice to bear in mind.

First, please start each label with a clear, present tense verb. I often see things like “worried” and “manager” and “needed” as the first word in mental model labels. Ix-nay. Verbs have power. Use them.

Second, always use the personal pronoun “I” in your labels. Don’t use “she” or “he” because that distances the reader.

Third, avoid compound labels (coming from compound quotes). When reviewing people’s work, I frequently pull apart several quotes and made them into two or three separate rows in the spreadsheet (or separate stickies on the wall), each with a separate label expressing a separate thing. Example: “Communicate with friends about news, vacation, social events” becomes three different tasks: “Share latest industry news with friends,” “Tell friends my vacation plans,” and “Chat about upcoming social events with friends.” See how the verb is more concise and powerful than the more academic-sounding “communicate?”

With these three points in mind, go through your mental model right now and make corrections. I guarantee the result will be stronger.

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