Once again, a news item focuses on how gobbledegook used by local government confuses people or, at worst, conceals the truth. Yet it’s not only councils that use jargon: businesses are often just as guilty.
It can be easy, when sitting in a room with colleagues or industry peers, to throw jargon and acronyms around. It saves time and can make us look good; it can also alienate people, make us look arrogant and block progress when others haven’t a clue what we mean.
It doesn’t take much to communicate clearly, using plain English instead of jargon, but the difference can be significant. If we rattle off an email that no one can understand, readers will either ignore it because they don’t know what we’re on about and don’t want to look stupid themselves or respond by seeking clarification from us. So that’s two unnecessary emails we’ll have generated. Confusion up, productivity down.
Acronyms and abbreviations do have their uses. Spelling out or saying ‘methylene diphenyl diisocyanate’ every time does get tedious, so following its first use with the initials MDI (so everyone knows what we’re talking about) can be useful, but inserting them into every document or conversation regardless of the intended audience should be avoided.
The answer, as usual, is in achieving balance through ensuring that our audience understands any technical or specialist terms we use. That’s how to keep both understanding and productivity up.