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the problem with jargon

The problem with jargon in the healthcare industry

Have you ever picked up a brochure or booklet that’s filled with jargon and technical terms you can’t understand?

The other day I met with a physiotherapist who wanted me to write content for his website. We talked about his aims and the outcomes he hoped to achieve.

He made it quite clear that he wanted to get more clients. To get his new business off the ground. He said he wanted me to use lots of jargon on his website, so he sounded professional.

This would have been okay if he was marketing his services to a bunch of professionals. But he wasn’t.

His main clients were regular people like you and me. People who don’t want to waste their time trying to understand complicated copy.

I quickly explained that loading his website with jargon would be a huge mistake. He would lose customers and alienate his audience.

What is jargon?

According to Wikipedia, jargon is a type of language that is used in a particular context and may not be well understood outside of it. Most jargon is technical terminology, involving terms of art or industry terms, with particular meaning within a specific industry.

All this means is that jargon does have its place in the world. But before you decide to use it, you need to think about your target audience. You need to consider their needs and abilities, and then write in a manner that suits them.

Why you should never use jargon with patients

Communication barriers in health care are a major problem. Healthcare providers seem to think that everyone speaks their language. That everyone can understand technical terminology and complex words.

Many people, especially the elderly, have trouble understanding medication instructions, appointment reminder forms and health education materials. This can result in missed appointments, the misuse of medications, and problems with self-managed health care.

How often have you picked up a brochure that is overloaded with statistics and technical terms you don’t understand? I know it happens to me all the time.

I usually end up putting the brochure in the bin and finding someone who speaks my language. This is obviously not what you want to achieve.

How to improve communication in the healthcare industry

The key to creating user-friendly content is simply understanding your audience.

Before writing any form of content, you need to know your audience inside and out. Your audience is the first thing you should think about, and the last.

When writing for patients, always remember to:

  • use simple words in plain english
  • use short sentences and bullet points
  • add headings to break up large blocks of text
  • only include necessary information
  • include lots of white space
  • add pictures where possible to explain complicated instructions

The outcome
I am pleased to say that I eventually persuaded my client to take my advice.

I explained the negative effect that jargon would have on his business. And I guaranteed that I could make him sound professional without using difficult words. His fabulous new, user-friendly website should be up and running soon!

If you need a copywriter to help you with your content, contact me for a free quote.

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