Drop the jargon

We love Drop the Jargon Day, a terrific idea from the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health.

The campaign, which has its first outing on Tuesday 20 October, urges people who work in the community sector, health services and local government to pledge to stop using acronyms and complex terminology and commit to using plain English.

From our perspective, the creative and the campaign can, and should, apply to any profession, including social services, charities and all levels of government.

This week we have been preparing media releases and talking to people working in the aged care sector. It’s been a task and a half to wade through acronyms and more medical or technical language than we ever thought possible to prepare media releases about research findings. This is despite asking presenters to describe their abstracts in language that could and should be understood by journalists.

Why should we care? Aside from the obvious ‘we’ve been paid to get publicity’, we care for a number of reasons. Firstly everyone should drop the jargon and speak and write in plain English to avoid confusion.

On a deeper level, when people working with older people resort to jargon, they are unwittingly contributing to poor understanding about their own health, the health system, and limiting the opportunity individuals may be able to make about their own wellness. When an older person does not speak English well or at all, problem is compounded still further.

From our perspective, as publicists, sticking to jargon not only detracts from the very messages that those working in the aged care and health sector want to convey to the people they work with and for, but it is off-putting to journalists trying to cover stories – even if the research may be incredibly interesting, useful or both.

As communication professionals, we are there to assist doctors, social workers or researchers to drop the jargon. In so doing, we play an important role in increasing the health literacy of the public and journalists.

We will use the many, wonderful tips that the Drop the Jargon campaign includes on its website. Do yourself a favour and log on today.

  • Use plain language in all communication – with other staff and with clients
  • Not use acronyms
  • Explain medical and other technical terminology
  • Check that information has been understood by your clients
  • Work with a professional interpreter when your clients have low English proficiency
  • Politely point out when your colleagues use jargon.