Plain Language

After more than 25 years in education, I’ve started to see with great clarity instances where some practices don’t align with research. I’ve also started to question the ways we message what we do.

I recently read an article about “systems thinking,” which is basically the art of being able to see how things connect and work together.   The part that stuck with me the most was this quote:

“Being the sole systems thinker in a linear thinking organization can be a lonely place. People will not understand you. You’ll feel like you’re walking around with two heads… whenever you talk, people will stare at you, confused.”

There are several conditions that have to be met in order to implement change. However, as I processed what I read, it dawned on me that maybe it’s the language we use that could be affecting our ability to achieve the outcomes we desire.  

For years, I’ve pushed back when people use acronyms.  Infamous for our ability to create a new one for every initiative, educators have incorporated acronyms in their daily conversations with students, parents, and members of the community for, well, ever.  The result is that when doing so, we unwittingly exclude a lot of people when we talk about what we do, or what a student needs.  

The same happens when we use jargon, or words and phrases that require prior knowledge or complex thinking to fully understand. Instead of empowering others, using jargon denies them the opportunity to be part of the conversation.

So regardless of your role or the type of organization you’re in, I encourage you to replace jargon with plain language.  It’s easier to understand, ensures the message and true intention are received, and will draw people in rather than pushing them away.

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