A few weeks ago I had a very interesting conversation with a high ranking Police Officer on Twitter regarding his job. More to the point – the conversation was regarding the difference between one of his roles as it originally appeared on his Profile and the role in reality. The difference was explained by the absence of three rather important words (which he was persuaded to insert into his Profile).
Not all confusion arises from mistakes like ommitting the words “the prevention of” in a “job description” on a Twitter profile.
Confusion can simply arise from people using slang words and phrases when speaking to someone who is either not from the same area or not entirely familiar with the “code” used in certain professions.
For example – before I started at my last job anybody asking me to order anything starting with the words “M6” would have been asked why they wanted me to order a Motorway. During the course of my job I quickly learned that “M6” was a size of bolt, nut, or screw.
Jargon just puts barriers between you and your customers. It can even cause them to take their business elsewhere. After all, if they cannot understand a word you are saying (even though you are both conversing in what appears to be the same language) how do you expect them to trust you to explain what went wrong with something they bought – as well as how to go about repairing it???
Don’t get me wrong – I love the differing ways that language can be used in order to educate, entertain, inspire, etc, people. I particularly love accents and dialects. It is just that – sometimes – we need to ensure we are understood by everybody.
The high ranking Police Officer I referred to at the beginning of this blog post was absolutely convinced that people would automatically assume that he was “National Lead for the prevention of the Criminal Use of Firearms” – even though his profile stated quite clearly that he was – in fact – the “National Lead for the Criminal Use of Firearms” (not quite the kind of role you would expect a high ranking Law Enforcement officer to have).
If you insist on using certain words and phrases which are specific to your organisation or industry in a public forum please make sure that people can easily see a translation into Plain English. Whilst I love learning different languages I am afraid so say that other people might not be so willing to expend their brainpower on something you should have done for them.
Language works best when it brings people together instead of driving them apart – even if unintentionally.