Speak plainly: are you communicating clearly to non-specialists?
Experienced research collaborators will tell you that one of the most critical aspects of a successful collaboration is effective communication, which can be easily undermined by over-use of technical ‘jargon’. It can cause confusion, waste time and may frustrate or alienate your partners.
What can you do to ensure that you are communicating clearly?
Watch the video for more background on what jargon is, the risks of using it, and some thoughts on your own use of jargon.
To prepare yourself to communicate more effectively with non-specialists, spend some time reflecting on your own use of jargon, or actively taking steps to reduce the amount of jargon you use.
Read Dustin Wax’s blog Be Heard. Speak plainly, which gives some great examples of over-complicated jargon and how it buries ideas and confuses thinking. It also offers some advice to follow on speaking more plainly and being heard.
Practice rewriting these jargon filled sentences (downloadable). There are some examples of sentences that take a long time to understand. Can you re-write them more simply?
Replace jargon in your text with plain English
The Plain English Campaign have produced an A-Z of alternative words that you could use to simplify your text, and a guide on how to write in plain English. Download the A-Z and the ‘How To’ guide and use them to de-jargon your writing.
Using jargon may be entirely appropriate, depending on your audience and can save time if you know they will understand a technical term. For example, both of the following sentences (taken from How to Avoid Jargon) are valid to use, as long as you know what your audience will understand.
Technical — Chlorophyll makes food by photosynthesis.
Non-technical — Green leaves build up food with the aid of light.
The key, of course, is not to make assumptions that you have a technical audience.