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Drop the Jargon is a day for professionals in Australian health, community services and local government to use plain language. October 24 2017

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

Pledge now

Why should I pledge?

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

Many Australians have trouble understanding and using information provided by organisations. They also have trouble navigating complicated systems like healthcare services.

When we use jargon, technical terms or acronyms, it is hard for people with low health literacy to understand and use information.

Drop the Jargon Day this year is on 24 October. Pledge and take part in activities at your workplace. Make it easy for people with low health literacy to get better information and outcomes from services they use.


% 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’. Here’s a useful resource to help.

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

For example: Change ‘The prescription can be picked up by you at the pharmacy’ to ‘You can pick up the prescription at the pharmacy’.

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: ‘give me a hand’

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.

More resources here.

Have plain language descriptions of confusing terms at your fingertips

Use plain language dictionaries to help you convert jargon into language that is easy to understand.
Some examples:
Plain Language Thesaurus
PlainMed app
Plain Language Medical Dictionary
Plain language legal glossary

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.

Resources to promote and celebrate the day:


  1. A lunchtime quiz
  2. A4 and A3 Posters for your workplace.
  3. a video to share on your website, or via social media
  4. A Banner for your website or social media


Sign the pledge

Drop the Jargon 2017

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179 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

About us

Drop the Jargon Day started in 2014. Different organisations (see below) interested in clear communication were looking to build on the work they had done at the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health as graduates of the Health Literacy Course.

Better health literacy practice in organisations can dramatically improve health outcomes, particularly in the most marginalised population groups. Knowing this, the passionate organisations below decided to do something to promote good communication with and help organisations reach more people in our community.

Thanks to this enthusiasm, Drop the Jargon has grown over the last three years and reached thousands of dedicated practitioners and organisations.

More information about the Health Literacy course

Health literacy course 2017

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 2017 in October 2016.

Course enquiries: please contact Jolyon Burford, Training Coordinator at Centre for Culture Ethnicity & Health.

Your Jargon Blacklist

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Displaying 1 - 23 of 23
What jargon term annoys you the most? Why?
Personal Brand used as a negative to imply you have a deficit. I am aslo not an inanimate object, I am a person not a product.
Engagement It's overuse is community work
capacity building it sounds patronising and mechanical when it's about relationships and sharing knowledge and skills - this goes both ways!
consumer engagement Firstly, they are people who use services/products etc.. Secondly, are you just doing things because they seem good without any thought?!
Let's talk about this offline Are we machines that can be turned off and on now?
Sustainability Means totally different things to different people. Financial sustainability? Environmental sustainability? Sustained interest in doing something? Etc
system agnostic Say what? Don't you mean, no wait, what do you mean?
Diabetic Labels a person for their condition. There is a lot more about a person with diabetes than their diabetes!
Patient Many people we see aren't 'sick' they live with a chronic illness. The term 'Patient' reinforces the sick role and does not acknowledge them as the unique individuals they are with numerous qualities to help them to manage their condition. Also a lazy way for HCPs to call people to let them distance themselves from the individual.
game changer Isn't change the norm?!? Weasel term of politicians and "innovators"
Housing affordabilty because we should just say houses are too expensive
Idiopathic it seems to be what you say when you don't know anything
get on the same page people don't read books anymore do they?
paradigm shift sounds like a type of car transmission
"at this point in time we are moving forward" inevitably it represents yet another complete revolve in an endless circle, but covers up this up with the sense that there is progress!
Stakeholders Too formal a term...confusing.
Abbreviated places of work (EACH or ADH) This doesn't exactly tell me where you work or your position ??? I noticed this on your page of "look who else has pledged".
frequent flyers Disrespectful of people's experience and encourages generalising.
client facing because it seems a bit passive, I would want someone to talk to me not just look at me
SLAs, KPIs, ROI, don't like acronyms
join the conversation online because people use it to describe social media when they want you to just read their stuff
strategic it feels like an easy way to sound smart
Complex client Because it implies that the client is difficult!
Displaying 1 - 23 of 23
Drop the Jargon 2017

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