Why Plain Language Is Imperative For Our Survival

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I’ve been on a war against jargon for a long time.

Recently, I’ve come across a couple of things that reinforce the fact that we need to stop using jargon along with overly ornate language. I’d like to share them with you here.

U.S. literacy statistics graph

We must understand that not everyone has a doctorate-worthy vocabulary level. Even for those who are exceptionally deft with language, messaging that is around 6th-8th grade level resonates because it is easy comprehend quickly.

Many leaders employ this type of communication with great success like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson.

If we are saying that we want to reach new people and be truly inclusive, we simply can’t use language that many people won’t understand.

This is so important that President Obama signed into law the Plain Language Act in 2010 which requires federal agencies to write “clear government communication that the public can understand and use.”

A recent article in The Globe and Mail puts this in the context of public health:

So while the need for effective public health communication has proven critical in the last year, a chorus of public health experts have stressed that clear communication has been lacking. The result: a “misinfodemic” that has repeatedly revealed that low health literacy is an underestimated public health problem. One glaringly obvious reason for why communication around COVID-19 has often failed to get the desired result is that so much public health material is not written using plain language.

In fact, there is even an International Plain Language Federation that advocates for this.

The next time you are writing copy for your organization — whether it is for marketing, PR, fundraising, or programming — think critically about the language you are using. Ask yourself, “Is this language going to be understandable by all?”

(h/t to my colleague Rob Maguire for the article)

About Ceci Dadisman

Ceci Dadisman is a marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience creating effective communications campaigns utilizing innovative, forward thinking methods. She is nationally recognized as a leader in digital marketing and specializes in multichannel communications campaigns.

A frequent public speaker, Ceci’s recent and upcoming engagements feature national conference appearances at NTEN, Museums and the Web, National Arts Marketing Project, Arts Midwest, American Alliance of Museums, OPERA America, Midwest Museums Association, and Chorus America in addition to many other local and regional events. Known for her easy-going and vernacular style, she creates open learning environments with an emphasis on information sharing and useful takeaways.

She is a member of the National Arts Marketing Project Advisory Committee and the West Virginia University College of Creative Arts Visiting Committee, and is a mentor in West Virginia University’s Creative Consultant program. She also teaches the arts marketing course at West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts and is on the faculty of Chorus America’s Chorus Management Institute.

Ceci was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts. She currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

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