Doctors’ jargon to watch for on your medical notes…

Updated January 25th, 2020. Doctors’ abbreviations, acronyms and slang terms actually used on patients’ notes have been on the way out for some years now, if we are to believe this article from the BBC’s News Online, way back in August 2003.

Would they have said you were ‘Paws Up,’ or just PBS?

And not because of high technology or computerized patient records – especially in the UK where most hospital notes are still done on paper because the various IT systems within our noble National Health Service can’t talk to each other despite many millions being wasted on trying. 

No, it’s because most of them were extremely rude (and funny.) [Read more…]

The Jargon and Cliché viruses: should you vaccinate your writing against them?

The Jargon and Cliché viruses: should you vaccinate your writing against them?Jargon, acronyms, abbreviations and other specialized business dialect are the source of many arguments among creators of business communication and they probably deserve to be argued about, because their use can be as helpful as it can be unhelpful. 

As usual, all depends on what the audience will consider appropriate, not what the writer or the message’s instigators think is appropriate. And that’s where the problems usually start.

Unwanted jargon, specialized terms and other business babble can turn up in all sorts of places, not just technical documents and presentations. If you’re putting together a company  sales meeting, for example, you might sit up until midnight with the engineering people winkling all the jargon out of their boss’s speech on new product specifications, only to find that on the day the finance director does 20 minutes of figures and computations full of financial jargon that not even the CEO understands.

Not just a disease of the technical types

Marketing and advertising people are prone to jargonitis too. FMCG and market segmentation may seem perfectly understandable terms to them but will go over the salesforce’s heads – not a good idea if your marketing director is trying to wow them with enthusiasm for the new corporate ad campaign that’s going to have their customers gagging to buy more from them.

People will often tell you that you can’t remove jargon from business communication without seriously “dumbing it down,” but don’t believe a word of it.  It is possible to make almost any topic understandable to any reasonably intelligent audience without insulting that intelligence. It just takes a bit more effort and thought.

Villains who exploit the Jargon Virus

And that brings me neatly to another point to be wary of:  people, especially less-than-adequate people, love to hide behind jargon and other gobbledy-gook. It’s part of that old line about “blinding them with science” and is closely related to the pompous-speak so loved by producers of corporate literature and online text.

In a similar way, using jargon and technical terms makes these people feel important and in control, especially when their audience doesn’t understand what they’re talking about but feels too intimidated to say so.

Not only is that incredibly rude to the audience concerned, but it’s also dangerous. For example, if the person conveying the message isn’t really an expert and is using the jargon wrongly, it won’t be long before someone realizes and bursts out laughing – not good for business.

I expect you’ve noticed how embarrassing it is when someone uses the wrong jargon and how irritating yet funny that can be? My own two personal pet-hates are people who talk about “panning the camera” when what they mean is move it in any direction (to pan means only to swivel the camera from side to side on the tripod) and journalists who talk about someone who has been “thrown from his/her horse” when they mean he/she has fallen off it (it’s quite rare that a horse will succeed in throwing a rider off its back.)

There, I’m glad I got those off my chest. And the lesson here? Only use jargon and technical-speak if you really know what it means and how it sits within your subject, AND if you’re sure your audience understands it as well as you do.

Clichés …. yawn …

Another area we need to take a look at is clichés, although with the advent of much plainer speaking – largely due to the Internet – we seem to have kissed goodbye to the more awful ones that pervaded business communication in decades past. Thanks Heavens for that, too.

I’m beginning to feel nauseous already, as I write down such pearls as “situations at this moment in time” and “within those parameters,” not least of which because when people talked about “parameters” they usually meant “perimeters,” but never mind, eh. Those were rife back in the 1980s, and later they were joined by their electronic siblings like “leading edge technology,” “state-of-the-art” etc., blah, blah, blah.

The Jargon and Cliché viruses: should you vaccinate your writing against them?Clichés like those are “comfort phrases”

Once again, many of these old clichés and those that have replaced them are useful smokescreens behind which people can hide for a while until they work out what it is they really want to say. They are the “comfort food” of business communication, propping up writers and speakers whose messages usually aren’t strong enough to stand up by themselves.

Yet it’s very easy to fall back on these clichés – they’re convenient “fillers” for times when we’re not clear in our minds about what to write. People who do manage to avoid using them stand out as individuals with personality and confidence – and I don’t know about you, but that’s how I like to be perceived.

How do you feel about jargon and clichés? Are you infected by them, or has your professional/corporate immune system thrown them off in favour of clear, uncluttered branding and business messages? Please share your thoughts with us!

Now, make sure you keep your  writing healthy:

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

“English to English: the A to Z of British-American translations”…more than 2,000 business and social terms from the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

“The English Language Joke book”…hundreds of laughs about this crazy language of ours