Select Page

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


[your signature]

320 signatures

Share this with your friends:



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

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Displaying 1 - 82 of 82
What jargon term annoys you the most? Why?
werwerwe werwerwerwe wer wrw erewr
in this space Because its meaning is unclear - in this universe/ hospital/ home/ community/ institution/program? What's it referring to?
Cutting edge It's now very blunt
The attached list shows a lack of understanding and incorrect assessment of the terms
engage audiences can they say talk to instead
empowerment It assumes a superiority
CALD young people think it is cold
Resources too broad
I not not have 'visualization' of xyz I have not seen xyz.
CALD This acronym for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse is actually shorthand for non-white< non-Anglo. Australia as a whole is a culturally and linguistically diverse community - not the individuals within it. We all have our cultural identity and yes, many of those identities are non-Anglo but they are no more "diverse" than your average white Australian's. Using culturally and linguistically diverse to describe people from non-Anglo backgrounds is a classic example of exclusion - Anglo is normal, non-Anglo is different - and it's too hard to identify each of them, so just group them all together and label them "diverse". The dominant and powerful doesn't need definition; hence web addresses from the USA don't need a .us suffix while the rest of the world needs to be identified with .au, .in, .ca, .uk etc. So in Australia, Anglo is normal and "boring" while the non-Anglos are "diverse", different, exotic, etc. Can go on more but will stop now.
leverage Verbing a noun. It's just a way to make something sound more impressive. Whatever you're trying to "leverage" can be said more simply.
Facilitate The word means "to make something easier", but it gets used to to mean... many things...very vague
diverse mostly used as a code word for 'not white'
paradigm It sounds very pretentious
Any abbreviations when you are new to an area of work you don't know what all the abbreviations are. when you ask what does that mean ,then sometimes it is explained sometimes the other person may not know or you are given a look like you should know.
undertake Can't we just do stuff - and leave the undertaking to undertakers?
'your' clients, my 'clients' etc - All suggest a position of superiority, ownership, power and control
"I can talk to this" Do we have to announce we are "talking to" something?! And we aren't talking to it, we are talking to a group of people in the room!
Synergy How about using "working together" instead?
Low-hanging fruit Why not just say, "the easy way"
Thinking outside the box Can't we just say, "a different way to think about this..."?
Streamlining Because nobody wants to work in Silos.
Working in 'Silos' Because it's important to streamline processes.
Reinvent The Wheel Because it would be nice to go one meeting without hearing it.
granular what's wrong with detail?
Open and transparent Because it sounds like a window
we haven't articulated the (....) as yet so, you haven't said (... ) yet?
advocacy points what?
agile strongly agree with the entry posted for agile.
inclusionary why not talk about who or what is included / excluded? this and other nouns being made into adjectives and adverbs.
underpinned by ... the mere image of pins under a strategy drives me mad.
Are you tolerating food and fluids? What does "tolerating" mean? Just managing to keep down the minimum? Eating everything in sight? Or somewhere in between?
Start Up implies that everything else is somehow inferior and lacking creativity. Such an overused term its now meaningless.
EFT The rest of the world uses FTE and EFT can be misunderstood as electronic funds transfer.
Person Centred Not sure. It just reeks of newspeak to me. There's thousands of them, although most of them have some genuine benefit, especially in/inter-house to increase productivity and positive speedier outcomes for clients.
supports what is really being provided here?
Going forward Completely redundant - what other option is there? Use the future tense.
Skin in the game donen't really mean anything to me, plus in a health setting isn't the best word to use
Cast my optics over this What - look at it?
Labelling person with their diagnosis Insulting to narrow some-one to one part of their life
Thought leader Is there any other kind of leader? A dream leader? A thoughtless leader? Can you lead without challenging people’s thoughts? Ie it’s superfluous to have ‘thought’ in front of ‘leader’
Working families Generally only the adults work
health literacy its waht we want everyone to have it - but most of us don't know what it actually means
heuristic Often see it around but even PhD students do not know what it means.
health outcome/s Good, bad or otherwise, they are all outcomes. Be specific!
Recovery become meaningless through over use and misuse. Also contradicts its everyday meaning
resilient overused
Patient acronyms for health conditions (e.g., PWA for Person with Aphasia) Reducing people to letters on the basis of their health condition is dehumanising.
anti's not explaining to the patient that we are actually giving them an nti-biotic
acronyms confusing
non compliant disempowering and degrading
Doctors 'initiating medicines in patients' Because the patient is completely disempowered and erased. Doctors prescribe for patients, not in them.
Agile Because it's a specific software development term, not just a bloody buzzword to describe being business savvy
Social Determinants of Health WT* does it mean? Issues that can affect a person's long-term health outcomes.
Consumer Sounds like the person is buying or eating something. Makes them less human
test Because it infers that someone can pass or fail when really it is a "check" to assess health status. It removes the judgement
take it offline because it can mean ''in private" or "not on the internet" confusing
Acronyms I have no idea what organisations people are talking about
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 - 82 of 82
  • Allan Ball says:

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

  • 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)


  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Drop the Jargon 2017

    Subscribe To CEH Newsletter

    Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates about Health Literacy.

    You have Successfully Subscribed!