If you know me personally, you will know that I love to read. It’s one of my favourite things to do and when I’m not reading, I’m usually talking about something I’ve read or asking people for their recommendations. It’s quite literally a big chunk of my personality and so when I recently heard on a CIPR webinar that the average reading age of adults in the UK is seven years old, I ended up in an online black hole trying to find out if this was true.
According to the Literacy Trust, 7.1 million or 16.4% of adults in England are considered as having really poor literacy skills (both reading and writing) and would have the skills typical of a 5-7-year-old. That’s one in six people across the country, which is a pretty important statistic to keep front and centre when drafting any communications.
It means ensuring any letters, social media posts and any other collateral are written clearly and using short sentences. But it also means squashing out any corporate gibberish that your audience may not be aware of.
I’ve been supporting organisations operating across the social housing sector for nearly four years and even before discovering the average reading age, some terms have always made my toes curl when I read them in a piece of external communications.
While it’s my job to identify and make these changes on behalf of the clients I support, I thought it might be worth sharing some of the jargon that I and the rest of the See Media team regularly come across. Hopefully this can help us all try and stomp out some of the commonly used – but most importantly, meaningless – buzzwords and phrases.
Keep it simple
As Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Making sure you are saying exactly what you mean and that it’s simple for your audience to understand can prevent any concern or miscommunication, which should be the priority for any organisation.
So, every month until we run out of jargon (!) we’re going to be selecting a couple of words and phrases that we (and hopefully you) think should be put in the housing, metaphorical (although it would be literal if I could) jargon bin as part of our ‘Jog on, Jargon’ campaign. Along with the alternatives we’d suggest using instead.
First up are some of the classics I see…
Now I know this word is often featured in people’s job titles and is a simple way of capturing what someone is responsible for internally. However, if you don’t work for a housing provider this term will have to be explained over and over whenever the person is asked what their job is. It’s therefore certainly not a word to feature in an annual report or a letter to residents. Instead, replace voids with empty homes.
An archaic term that should never, I repeat, never be used other than in a planning application. If you are communicating externally or even internally, about a planning application being submitted or approved, then home is the word to use. Never, dwellings – ever.
So, that’s two for the housing jargon bin and I hope you agree – but if not, I’d also be interested to hear why. Similarly, if there are any phrases or words your organisation uses that you’d like us to feature on our blog that you can subtly signpost people to, I’m all ears. You can direct message them to us on Twitter or email Sara.Mills@see-media.co.uk (I promise it’ll be in confidence).
Stay posted for more Jog on, Jargon alternatives and suggestions on how to communicate more effectively with your audiences by signing up for our monthly e-newsletter. Until next time.
Sara-Anne Mills-Bricknell is an Account Director at See Media