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Drop the Jargon is a day for professionals in Australian health, community services and local government to challenge themselves to use plain language.

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What was it like to drop the jargon for a day?


Did you find it difficult?


Did you learn anything?

Why should I pledge?

6 out of 10 of people in Australia have low health literacy.

This means that the majority of people in Australia have difficulty accessing, understanding and using health information as well as difficulty navigating the health system.

Using jargon, technical terms and acronyms contributes to low health literacy.

By dropping the jargon, you are helping individuals understand and use information to make informed decisions and actions affecting their health and wellbeing.


% of people in Australia with low health literacy

How do I drop the jargon?

Use plain language

1. Swap jargon for plain language.

For example: Swap ‘facilitate’ for ‘help’,  ‘approximately’ for ‘about’, ‘modify’ for ‘change’. Here’s a useful resource to help you with your word/phrase swap.

2. Use the active voice, identifying who is doing the action.

3. Use ‘you’ and ‘we’ to talk directly to the person you’re speaking to.

The person is ‘you’. The health service or government agency is ‘we’. This will help engage your audiences.

4. Keep your sentences short

5. Avoid clichés

For example: ‘go cold turkey’

6. Explain any jargon you need to use.

If there is no plain language alternative, use jargon but explain the term the first time you use it.

7. Avoid abbreviations and acronyms

And if you do use them, explain what they are and spell them out.

8. Focus on the positive, not ‘should’ and ‘don’t’.

These plain language tips were sourced from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services Communication and Health Literacy Toolkit.

Have plain language descriptions of medical terms at your fingertips

These tools convert medical language into everyday English.

We recommend you download this Plain Language Thesaurus to your desktop. This resource lists many medical terms with their plain language equivalent. For example, instead of saying ‘chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’, say ‘lung disease’. Instead of saying ‘rheumatoid arthritis’ say ‘disease of joints’.

You might also want to check out the PlainMed app and the Plain Language Medical Dictionary.

Check understanding

To check if a person understands, ask them to explain or demonstrate what you said. If the person doesn’t explain it correctly or misses vital points, re-teach the information. This isn’t a test of the consumer’s knowledge; it’s a test of how well you’ve communicated.

Try using the teach-back technique

Teach-back is one of the easiest ways to check you’ve succeeded in communicating. It involves:

1. Emphasising that it’s your responsibility to explain things clearly

2. Asking the consumer to explain in their own words the main points from what you’ve said.


Source: Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services Communication and Health Literacy Toolkit.

Check out this video for an example –  Here’s a video that demonstrates the teach-back technique in a hepatitis B context.
Low English proficiency

When you are working with people with limited English proficiency, you should use interpreters and/or translations services.

Have a look at these language services information sheets produced by the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health that explain how to access and use interpreters and translation services effectively.

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Drop the Jargon


519 signatures

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Pledge to Drop the Jargon


In taking the pledge, you are accepting the challenge to:

  • 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
See who has pledged

Latest Signatures
519Julia S.Diabetes VictoriaJun 06, 2016
518Sini J.Peninsula HealthMay 23, 2016
517Kathryn M.Royal Australian and New Zealand College of PsychiatristsApr 12, 2016
516Linda M.penninsula healthMar 24, 2016
515Gabrielle Z.Inner South Community HealthMar 02, 2016
514Angela S.Jan 25, 2016
513Chantelle R.EspyconnectJan 11, 2016
512Harmony T.Speech PathologistJan 11, 2016
511Paul T.Lyndoch LivingDec 14, 2015
510Andrea C.ComAbilityDec 03, 2015
509Jacinta L.South Gippsland HospitalDec 01, 2015
508Cathy B.Access Easy EnglishNov 30, 2015
507Toby V.Nov 24, 2015
506Samantha w.kilmore & district hospitalNov 23, 2015
505Ashleigh R.Cancer Council VictoriaNov 23, 2015
504Julie J.Alzheimer's Australia VicNov 19, 2015
503Melissa S.Neami National Nov 04, 2015
502Nina C.Dental Health Services VictoriaNov 02, 2015
501Pierre-Antoine D.Cancer Council VictoriaNov 01, 2015
500Susan G.Peninsula HealthOct 29, 2015
499Haley B.Mercy Hospital for WomenOct 29, 2015
498Phil K.NeamiOct 28, 2015
497Aileen T.Koo Wee Rup Regional HealthOct 28, 2015
496emma n.MHWOct 26, 2015
495Ruth B.Hepatitis NSWOct 25, 2015
494Virginia K.Hepburn Healrh ServiceOct 25, 2015
493Kellie B.Chisholm Enrolled Nurse StudentOct 24, 2015
492Jenny B.Inglewood and Districts Health ServiceOct 22, 2015
491Cheryl B.City of DarebinOct 22, 2015
490Jim B.DarebinOct 22, 2015
489Lindy D.Darebin LibrariesOct 22, 2015
488Jan C.Peninsula HealthOct 22, 2015
487Anna T.RDNSOct 22, 2015
486Karen D.CAMHSOct 22, 2015
485Emma H.Peninsula HealthOct 21, 2015
484GEMMA H.NSW STI Programs UnitOct 21, 2015
483Caroline K.Eastern HealthOct 21, 2015
482Kirsten J.Austin HospitalOct 21, 2015
481Michael C.Health Consumers Alliance of SAOct 21, 2015
480Dianne H.Diabetes VictoriaOct 21, 2015
479Michelle R.Northern HealthOct 21, 2015
478Kerry H.Peninsula HealthOct 21, 2015
477Katrina H.South Eastern Sydney Local Health DistrictOct 21, 2015
476Naomi R.Scope VictoriaOct 21, 2015
475Pari L.Neami NationalOct 20, 2015
474Melissa W.Diabetes Victoria Oct 20, 2015
473Jenni T.EACHOct 20, 2015
472julie c.Food Whisperers INCOct 20, 2015
471Julie B.MPCNOct 20, 2015
470Paul M.meta4RN.comOct 20, 2015
469Lea M.Oct 20, 2015
468Nicola M.Vision AustraliaOct 20, 2015
467Kim A.Peninsula Health Mental Health ServiceOct 20, 2015
466Sharon W.Melbourne HealthOct 20, 2015
465Louise G.Diabetes Victoria Oct 20, 2015
464David H.Illawarra Shoalhaven LHDOct 20, 2015
463Anhly B.Leading NutritionOct 20, 2015
462Malcolm G.BenetasOct 20, 2015
461Dylan H.Eastern HealthOct 20, 2015
460Jillian R.South West HealthcareOct 20, 2015
459Sandra P.South West Healthcare Community HealthOct 20, 2015
457Peta D.Eastern HealthOct 20, 2015
456Pauline H.Mercy HealthOct 20, 2015
455Courtney Z.Peninsula Health Oct 20, 2015
454Kerry W.Neighbourhood Justice CentreOct 20, 2015
453Peter G.Peninsula HealthOct 20, 2015
452Dan M.Peninsula HealthOct 20, 2015
451Ezekiel K.Code For AustraliaOct 20, 2015
450Debra H.Royal Womens HospitalOct 20, 2015
449Bernadette V.Austin HealthOct 20, 2015
448Leonie L.cohealthOct 20, 2015
447Teresa S.UniversityOct 20, 2015
446Lesley S.Peninsula HealthOct 20, 2015
445Selina H.Peninsula HealthOct 20, 2015
444Lester J.Sunshine Coast Community Mental HealthOct 20, 2015
443Katherine M.Melbourne Primary Care NetworkOct 20, 2015
442Chandu D.Werribee Mercy HospitalOct 20, 2015
440Gee B.cohealthOct 20, 2015
439Sandra T.Peninsula HealthOct 19, 2015
438Marlies B.cohealthOct 19, 2015
437Jeremy K.MPCNOct 19, 2015
436Laura W.Melbourne Primary Care NetworkOct 19, 2015
435Kah-Seong L.Eastern HealthOct 19, 2015
434Julie W.Hunter New England Mental HealthOct 19, 2015
433Ben L.Peninsula HealthOct 19, 2015
432Jessica H.Melbourne Primary Care NetworkOct 19, 2015
431Kobita S.Peninsula HealthOct 19, 2015
430Anne H.Melbourne Primary Care NetworkOct 19, 2015
429Kim H.BCNAOct 19, 2015
428Rose H.MPCNOct 19, 2015
427Cheryl C.MPCNOct 19, 2015
426Brodie P.Melbourne Primary Care NetworkOct 19, 2015
425Judi M.Peninsula HealthOct 19, 2015
424Ambreen M.CEHOct 19, 2015
423Sarah K.Neami NationalOct 19, 2015
422Lynette R.BupaOct 19, 2015
421Jo-Anne O.MI FellowshipOct 19, 2015
420Stephen L.Metro North HHS. BrisbaneOct 19, 2015

About us

Drop the Jargon day is organised by a collection of organisations committed to improving health literacy.

These agencies participated in the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health’s Health Literacy Course.

Based in Melbourne, Australia.

More information about the Health Literacy course

Health literacy course 2016

Each year, the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health runs a Health Literacy Course. This course builds the capacity of agencies to respond to health literacy at the level of the client-practitioner interaction, as well as embedding organisation-wide health literacy strategies into systems, operations, planning and workforce development.

This course will provide you strategies and tools to help you embed health literacy strategies in your organisation.

The course has four full-day workshops held every second month, along with small projects between each workshop so that the learning can be implemented within participants’ organisations.

There is also an Executives Forum that brings together course participants and senior executives to plan the way forward for health literacy at all levels of the organisations.

Enrolments open for 2016 in October 2015.

More information about the Health Literacy Course 2016.

Course enquiries: please contact Lynda Memery, Professional Learning Coordinator, Centre for Culture Ethnicity & Health via

How was it to drop the jargon?

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  • Joanne Green says:

    I have become very conscious of using jargon after discussions with some of my team mates so it was something that was already on my radar. One of the things that I didn’t consider was abbreviations I used the abbreviation “DBT” (dialectical behavioural therapy) without a thought and didn’t realise until one of my co-workers explained what it mean to our social work student.

    Still some work to be done!

  • Jenny says:

    It was easy than I thought is was going to be, I did use jargon on one occasion, then realised immediately what I had done and corrected myself. It does make you aware of all the jargon we use in various professions, interest group, sports and communities.

  • Louise Francis says:

    I found it was easy for me not to use jargon as I have never been in favour of it and I try not to use it regardless. However, during a presentation the other day that jargon was being used and some of us attending did mention to the presenter that it was drop the jargon day.

  • Bronwen Cornell says:

    It felt good to drop the jargon and try real communication for a change. I think the clients appreciated the effort but one lady (long term client) corrected me and tried to add the jargon when I didn’t use it. Overall several NESB clients were particularly warmly appreciative of my efforts and I think it is worth continuing to try, even if I don’t always do it.

  • Julie B says:

    I found it highlighted how dependent we are in the health sector on using acronyms, especially when I realised that I had used only the acronym for our organisation name when registering for drop the jargon day.