Celebrating a wrap for the CEH Drop the Jargon Day campaign for 2022!
By: Jolyon Burford, Trainer & eLearning Developer
Our Drop the Jargon Day campaign for 2022 is officially wrapped. We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed.
Our annual campaign puts a spotlight on how the use of jargon impacts communication. During the campaign we provide resources and materials to help people identify and avoid jargon in their work. If you missed it, we did a one-hour webinar special on how you can drop the jargon by communicating in both spoken and written plain language. You can check it out FREE here on our member’s page.
I hope this blog post gives you some ideas on how to become more aware when you’re using jargon and ultimately avoid using it at the wrong times.
What is Jargon?
As you’re probably aware, jargon is specialised or technical language. Jargon is often partnered with incomprehensible acronyms & abbreviations. This type of language is used by experts in a particular field, but is difficult for everyday people to understand.
Jargon can be a help, but it’s often a hindrance
We find jargon in every field. It’s often used as a shortcut to communicate complex ideas quickly and efficiently between experts. But when experts switch to communicating with people outside their field, they often forget to stop using it. This makes it difficult for non-experts to understand their information and use it to make informed decisions. At its worst, jargon is class war where people with advanced language skills insist that those without them just aren’t trying hard enough to speak the Queen’s King’s English. Meh.
So how can we proceed? Notice when you switch audience, and communicate appropriately
Our days are busy, and we often speak to, or write for people with varying English language skills. We need to notice when we change audience and ask ourselves “What’s the most limited level of English in this audience?” and then communicate with that level in mind.
If you do this well, more people will understand your message and be better placed to make informed decisions. And we like that. Yes Yes.
Use plain language with both colleagues and clients
Communicating clearly and concisely is important both outside AND inside your organisation.
Plain Language with Colleagues
Inside our organisations, we often assume that everyone speaks and reads English well and understands the specialised language we use. But there are always staff who don’t for a variety of reasons. A L W A Y S. If we base our communication on the people with the most limited level of English in the audience, we’ll be understood by more people. By making internal organisational communications, policies and procedures easy for ALL staff members to understand, you’ll make it possible for them to take in messages, contribute to the conversation from their lived experience, and work towards organisational goals.
Plain Language with Clients
Your clients might have a range of potentially different assumptions from you about:
- the appropriate time, channel and language for communication
- the meaning of the topic
- how to discuss it appropriately
- what level of detail to go in to
- what to prioritise
- who should be involved in decision making
Make sure you’re considering these factors when you think about how you approach communication.
The CEH spoken plain language framework lays out the steps to effective spoken communication.
- Find out client’s view and knowledge
- Enable questions and note taking
- Limit what you say
- Plain language and simple graphics
- Check Understanding – see teachback demo
Spoken communication is a complex interaction. By focusing on these 5 points, you’ll communicate at an appropriate level, help clients remember the key messages, reduce the amount of information you’re asking them to process and ensure that they have a similar understanding of the conversation to you.
Average Australians read at about a year 8 level or at about the same level as the average 12-13 year old. Many people read well below this level. If we base our communication on the people with the most limited level of English in the audience, we’ll be understood by more people. For a general audience, we want to aim for a year 8 level or below. And then give people the option to click through/ QR code to more complex information if they want.
Some tips for plain language writing
- Find out how your client sees the situation then use their words and viewpoint to frame your information
- Reduce the amount of information they have to take in AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
- Removing unnecessary complexity
- Use shorter paragraphs, sentences and words
- Use clear, descriptive headings that summarise the following information
Plain language is a tool
Language is just a tool. We use tools to efficiently achieve something in the world. For example, when we want to go to the best country in the world [New Zealand] quickly, we fly in a plane. When we want to communicate so everyone understands, plain language is the tool we need.
In closing – plain language is a tool for communicating complex information as simply and efficiently as possible.
Want to learn more about using plain language?
Watch our free plain language webinar from this year’s Drop the jargon Day.
Check out our spoken plain language framework.