This is a post inspired by an article I read recently on LinkedIn. It is unarguably the worst writeup I have ever seen or read. Infact I nearly died just reading it. It was full of “big big” grammar – totally unnecessary and a little annoying. It was obvious the writer was trying to impress whoever stumbled on it. I wasn’t impressed – not one bit. Infact I struggled to read it and gave up half way. I learnt nothing.
This seems to be the trend among consultants, possibly to cover up their lack of skill and experience or to appear “too” knowledgeable and be seen as the expert in their field or so the client thinks he is paying for the best and every money spent was worth it. Here is the bad news – you are doing your clients more harm than good. How?
If you were to prepare a Health and Safety Manual or even a policy and you used all the big Safety grammar, of what use will the manual or policy be to your client? The so called safety system you are trying to help them develop and/or implement will be useless to them whether or not you are on a retainer contract aimed at filling the gap of their competent person. Remember everyone at work has a responsibility towards safety? Everyone needs to know what their duties are. If one cannot understand what their duty is then it will be impossible to work towards meeting their responsibilities. It is important that whatever document you prepare for your clients is jargon free. Honestly, you don’t need to bring out your dictionary and textbooks to make sure you knock out some brains 😉 . A 15 year old should be able to read and understand the document – that is how simple things should be. Here are a few tips.
1. Use full words instead of acronyms. If you have to use acronyms (abbreviations formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word e.g WHO from World Health Organisation), make sure you write the full phrase and in bracket place your acronyms the first time you use it. For example:
The Institute of Safety and Health (IOSH) is the world’s largest professional body for Safety professionals. IOSH provides training, ….. Members of IOSH….
Acronyms are usually confusing as an acronym could have different meaning across different occupations and communities. For example, HSE could mean Health and Safety Executive. It could also mean Health, Safety and Environment. Remember to spell out an acronym the first time you use it.
2. Avoid technical terms. If you do need to use industry-specific or technical terms, use it only if you are dealing with industry professionals like yourself but be sure to define what you mean so anyone else who reads your work can understand them. For example, it is normal for safety professionals to use the phrase “so far as is reasonable practicable”. This phrase can sometimes be confusing for newly trained safety professionals and the layman but it is unavoidable. However, be sure to explain if dealing with non-industry people.
3. Use simple words in place of difficult words. Only use difficult words if there are no simple words to describe what you are trying to say. For example words/phrases like hazards or hierarchy of control and the likes have no better word(s) to replace them, so it is ok to use them. Use of difficult words if necessary, should be kept to a minimum. I don’t do jargons and unnecessary big talk so couldn’t compose my own example but here is something I got off SafetyAtWorkBlog
Below is an example of the (lack of) communication that recently did the rounds in Australia:
“…. partnership to assist in facilitating a more holistic approach to our (OHS) profession along the lines of more clear, established and disciplined paths and requirements to progress those paths.”
I would suggest this would translate as “someone has given us money so that we can do things”.
Can you see how something so basic became scientific and brain cracking? Keep it simple folks.
Can you think of any other tips to help keep things simple? Then please leave a comment.