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I recently came across the acronym ELI. I know that acronyms are usually the enemy of good communication but I’m making an exception.

ELI14 means Explain it like I’m 14

This is a very clear (and cute) way of explaining the level workers need to be pitching communication. By this, I don’t mean dumbing information down, just using simpler ways of explaining exactly the thing you want to express- at the level that the average 14 year old could understand. Without going into too much detail, this is the level recommended by the peak Health Literacy organisations in both Australia and the USA.

This example is taken from Newsla and falls into the ‘too high’ category:

“Owning a pet increases human interaction and combats the increasing health concerns around loneliness, prompting some researchers on May 7 to suggest the government should do more to encourage it.

Researchers released new data that shows about 40 percent of people support a government push to increase interaction with pets. The research was presented at the first Summit on Social Isolation and Companion Animals by Mars Petcare and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). Mars Petcare even gives consumers tips on how to convince government officials to make their cities more pet-friendly.

Loneliness is as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to one researcher. That makes it a health concern on par with obesity.”

Here is the ELI14 – ‘Explain it like I’m 14’ version:

Owning a pet can be good for your health. It can help you connect with other people and fight loneliness too.

On May 7 this year, experts who study pets and loneliness shared some new findings.

These experts say that loneliness is bad for people’s health. One expert said it’s as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That makes it as risky as if a person weighs a lot more than what’s healthy for their body. Weighing too much can cause serious medical problems and now experts are saying a lack of connection with other people can too.

By thinking about ELI14 when you write, you can quickly improve the way you communicate.

Written by Jolyon Burford

Jolyon is an experienced CEH trainer and plain language advocate who helps make organisations easier for their clients to understand.