The possibilities of plain language: how jargon costs non-profits time and money

“A communication is in plain language if its wording, structure, and design are so clear that the intended readers can easily find what they need, understand what they find, and use that information.”

Why It Matters

Forty-eight per cent of Canadian adults are considered to have low literacy. Plain language removes barriers, like jargon, that can prevent people from understanding and accessing community and government services.

What does “developer velocity” have in common with “platformication” and “systemic cadence?” They’re all terms that have received a dubious honour — the Financial Review’s Eye-roll Award for worst possible jargon.

“Jargon always comes up when I’m training people,” says Barbra Kingsley, president of the Centre for Plain Language. “But I tell people that jargon itself isn’t bad — and it’s a kind of shorthand that often works with people who share our same level of knowledge.”

It makes sense for nuclear scientists or doctors to develop verbal shortcuts to efficiently communicate complex concepts or procedures — if they’re speaking to other nuclear scientists or doctors, she says.

“The problem is when you start trying to communicate to people outside of your immediate level of expertise and you try to use that same language

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