Understanding the Correct Ways to Use the Term Alumni
The term alum refers to any of various double sulfates of a trivalent metal such as aluminum, chromium, or iron and a univalent metal such as potassium or sodium. Alums are useful for a range of industrial, culinary or medical processes.
While it’s understandable that an alum may be quite relevant to a scientist, chef or doctor, it may also be surprising that it’s not particularly useful to those who work in advancement.
On the other hand, an alumnus (male) or alumna (female) is clearly a former student (often a graduate) of a school, college, or university. The term alumnae is used to describe a group of female former students and the term alumni describes a group of male former students or a group of both males and females.
Too often, those who work in annual giving and alumni relations don’t take the time to use these terms (and many other terms) correctly. When that happens, it not only makes you look casual, ill-informed and unprofessional, but it reflects poorly on your institution.
In the same way that the clothes you decide to wear to work each day make a statement, the language you use to communicate with your colleagues, your constituents and your volunteers says a lot about you and your organization.
Keeping this in mind, take time to select the right words and to use them in the proper way. It’s more important than you might think.
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