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Definition of Key Terms

Definition of Key Terms

Every day we hear people use ill-defined words and phrases which results in too much ambiguity and vagueness in their use of language, which leads to misunderstandings, confusion, error, omissions and more conflict.

In order to avoid these negative consequences, we should learn how to define the exact meaning of our major terms and concepts.

The issue of giving clear definitions to abstract ideas is one of immense importance, because the success of individuals and teams requires, we can make ourselves clearly understood in both the written and spoken word.

Giving clear definitions is the key to clarity in communication.

But giving clear definitions is not easy, especially when we are trying to explain (or to understand) highly technical or philosophical, or ethical, or emotional, morale, political or economic terms.

For instance, abstract concepts such as Quality, Fair, Professional, Compassionate etc are inherently ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations, which gets in the way of “delivery” because each person interprets them in their own unique way and so, in practice there can be a lack of consistency.

What is the solution to this problem?

The solution is to write clear definitions of all your major Key-terms and Values, by learning the “C.G.4D system”.

What is C.G.4D definition?

C.G.4D. definition is a system you use to define every abstract concept and “value”.

It is a three-part model:

  • Context
  • Genus
  • 4 Differencia

C = Context: Each word operates within a given context, (e.g. Social care, Police, NHS, Business etc) and each definition must be specific to your particular work context.

So, whenever you are writing a definition, the first step is to NAME THE CONTEXT (i.e. Where we work) we define Concept X as (G. 4D).”

G = Genus - General class name: The next step is to put your concept into its broader class. Everything that exists can be thought of as being a member or example of a broader class.

For instance:

  1. “Dog” may be classified is an “ANIMAL”, or perhaps a PET, (depending on the context).
  2. “Burglary” is classified as a “CRIME”.
  3. “Integrity” is classified as a MORAL PRINCIPLE and / or SET OF POSITIVE BEHAVIOURS.
  4. “Quality” is classified as “An assessment of a product or a service, that describes the degree to which it possesses (or lacks) the following (4D)”.

4D = Three or Four ESSENTIAL, distinguishing characteristics by reference to which the term is applicable, and in the absence of which it is NOT applicable.

If you memorise the above sentence, you will have the major key to writing objective definitions.

Alternatively, you could memorise the following question, which is a restatement of the above.

“What are the three or four ESSENTIAL, distinguishing characteristics, that separate (the target concept) from other similar things in the same class?”

Now we specify the three of four essential, distinguishing characteristics that denote the exact meaning of the term; and thus, we make it clear what attributes it must have and how it is different from other similar things.

Here is where the real work begins because here, we become extremely specific, by naming the key ESSENTIAL attributes that must be present, and by virtue of which the term can be applied, and in absence of which it cannot be applied.

What would you like to define?

Term being defined
Where, when and to whom is the concept applied?

Where, when and to whom is the concept applied?

What is the general class name, or broad description of the key term?

4 Differencia
What are the three or four ESSENTIAL, distinguishing characteristics by reference to which the term is applicable, and in the absence of which it is NOT applicable?

Distinguishing Characteristic 1
Distinguishing Characteristic 2
Distinguishing Characteristic 3
Distinguishing Characteristic 4

If the concept is of human construction or is the result of biological evolution, then it usually has a definite purpose, which we should write in box four.


Now you've finished the steps, you can either print this page or email it to yourself and/or a delegate:

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