Skip to content

Noisy vs. Energetic: The Language of Reviews

I received a survey request for my feedback on a restaurant, and I noticed the categories I could pick from regarding the noise level:

Quiet . . . Moderate . . .  Energetic

Did you notice the absence of the word noisy?

I spotted it right away because I had found the restaurant noisy. But I appreciated that the survey language helped me recognize that my noisy could be another person's energetic or lively. In fact, the word made me realize that the restaurant was very lively and, well, energetic–not really noisy at all.

If you write performance appraisals, let the difference between noisy and energetic remind you to think carefully about the way you describe employees. You may at first want to describe someone as nitpicky, but a positive version is meticulous or very careful. Can you see the positive side too?

Before you characterize him as stubborn, are you certain you don't mean persistent or tenacious? And is she narrow-minded or highly focused? Is he a loner or an independent thinker? Are her plans wildly optimistic or exciting–or both?  

The language of performance reviews can inspire or dishearten an employee, so try to see both sides of a trait and praise the positive side too. When you do, employees can recognize their strengths and opportunities. Maybe he is too chatty for the accounting department but would be perfectly sociable in client relations. Your language can help an employee make that kind of connection.

If you get stuck trying to think of alternative words, try your online thesaurus or synonym feature. But double-check the meaning of any word you don't normally use. My thesaurus gave erratic, indecisive, and inconsistent as suggestions for nitpicky–not at all what I intended.

Syntax Training

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.

7 comments on “Noisy vs. Energetic: The Language of Reviews”

  • These are great examples, Lynn.

    I’m planning to refer to this post tomorrow when I talk about using positive language during my Business Writing class.

  • Thank you, Lynn.

    I keep a thesaurus website open on my browser when writing or editing. It’s a quick way to find the right word when I need it.

    In business writing there is a tendency to repeat words(often in the same sentence or paragraph). A thesaurus helps me find alternatives when editing.


  • I enjoyed this post, maybe because I just finished doing performance appraisals for my team. Instead of pointing out people’s faults directly, I called them “Areas for growth in 2010.” It really does help to cast criticisms in a positive light.

  • Just read this post – fantastic!

    Your advice applies in general of course and not just for performance reviews. Words can make a huge difference – to the writer and the reader.

    Writing positively is also a key pillar of plain English writing.

    I only discovered your blog yesterday and have enjoyed reading the posts so far. Keep up the wonderful work, and keep the insights coming.

    Thanks again:)

  • Till now I thought nitpicky is having a negative connotation only.
    But your blog revealed to me that such words also can be viewed from a positive perspective.

    Thanks for the enlightened view.

Comments are closed.