In 1972, Italian comedian Adriano Celentano recorded a song of perfect gibberish. Called Prisencolinensinainciusol, it was written to: “…have as its theme the inability to communicate. And to do this, I had to write a song where the lyrics didn’t mean anything.”
Every day, organisations unwittingly go down the same path as Celentano, releasing messages and information that sound as though they should make sense, but are actually gobbledegook.
Making your message clear and easy to understand on first hearing or reading is a basic requirement of good communication. Too often though, messages are buried under jargon and language as far away from Plain English as can be. You may think something is understandable, but to a targeted audience it can sound like nonsense.
Jargon is a huge barrier to communication, and local government – like all of the public sector – is awash with it. I saw plenty of councils tweeting about ‘waste and recycling collections’ over Easter, what’s wrong with’ bin collection’, or even ‘your bin day’? Jargon can also breed nasty attitudes. Chris Bolton has recently blogged about the dark side of jargon which is a must-read.
Plain English is what we should all aim for. Making your communications understandable is not ‘dumbing down’, it’s what you should be aiming for. The Plain English campaign has some great resources to help squash jibberish.
My GP surgery on-hold message says: “All of our operators are currently busy and you are being held in a queue. We will endeavour to connect you as soon as possible once an operator becomes available.” After hearing this a few times my blood pressure starts to creep up. I’d much rather they said “Thank you for waiting. We will answer your call as soon as possible.” Straightforward and to the point. Like all comms should be. After three: Freezing cold and ants and I tools old. Alright?