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

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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 2017

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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
1 Elaine H. Peninsula Health Aug 15, 2017

About us

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

Some of 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 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, 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.

  • Maria says:

    Thank goodness to be able to talk real rather than robotic

  • Helen says:

    I didn’t realise how many things we say to each other within the working environment that are reduced to Abbreviations. Keeping language to plain English was harder than expected

  • Mitchell Bowden says:

    At Darebin City Council, we promoted drop the jargon day through our Council-wide e-bulletin. The Aged and Disability Department ran a morning tea whereby activities were run to encourage people to start thinking about how they can use plain language better in their roles. A number of actions were also suggested that will help to keep the momentum and focus going within the Aged and Disability Department. These will be implemented on an ongoing basis.

  • RenzaS says:

    I am a diabetes blogger and consumer advocate and activist and wrote about Drop the Jargon Day on my blog yesterday (which was reblogged on the Diabetes Victoria blog). As someone who is active within an online community of people affected by diabetes, we frequently find ourselves using jargon, abbreviations, terminology etc. that makes sense to us, but perhaps not to someone new to our community. Being clear and concise, and acknowledging not everyone has the same level of understanding about diabetes is important and that’s why I pledged to Drop the Jargon.

  • Louise says:

    It was great to drop the jargon, all be it for a day! Dependant on the audience I am much more mindful of the choice of words I use.

    Sharing the pledge and message with others was very rewarding too.

  • Cath says:

    It was challenging and fun to drop the jargon. I was caught out “jargoning” by a couple of colleagues in the middle of a meeting and our organisation participated in the overall campaign with our own internal promotions. We had about 20 staff actively participate and more than that used the concepts and commitments across the lead up to the day. Great idea and very engaging.

  • Mindy says:

    My organisation held a morning tea and asked people to write down their own pledge for Drop the Jargon day. People reflected on their own ‘worst offenders’ and pledged to drop them for a day, a week or for good. We kept everyone’s pledges so we could check in later.

  • Nicki says:

    I enjoyed the day – we kept a jargon jar, and almost all of the serial offending terms submitted were ones used constantly in our organisation to describe our work. One of our colleagues also pulled up a senior executive during a presentation for using acronyms not everyone was familiar with. Plain language didn’t come as easily as expected!

    Next year I’d like the office to vote for jargon terms and pick the top three to avoid, as avoiding all jargon is still a tall order for us.

  • Lisa says:


    I loved dropped the Jargon Day! My organisation promoted the day and are continuing to “Drop the Jargon” long after the day 🙂

    Can you please email me the date of Drop the Jargon (Australia)


  • Allan Ball says:

    Can you please let me know if this is happening again in 2017?