Part of: Clear language
Words to avoid
Last updated: 26 March, 2020
Following this helps people with:
time pressures: clear vocabulary is easier to scan and absorb
stress: jargon and metaphor will be hard to comprehend
multi-tasking: no time to decipher complex language
limited fluency: less extensive vocabulary
cognitive impairments: simple words carry less cognitive load
dyslexia: clear, concise language is more helpful
low literacy: who read text word by word
sight loss: RNIB recommend using plain English
autism: National Autistic Society advise against the use of jargon
first language sign language: vocabulary may be less familiar
Think about what you’re actually doing and describe that. Be open and specific.
Vague words mean nothing. They waste time and irritate users. They also limit understanding, and can make users trust your content less.
Jargon usually means something else. It causes confusion.
agenda – unless it’s for a meeting
collaborate – use working with
commit/pledge – we need to be more specific, we’re either doing something or we’re not
deliver – pizzas, post and services are delivered, not abstract concepts like improvements or priorities
deploy – unless it’s military or software
dialogue – we speak to people
disincentivise – and incentivise
facilitate – instead, say something specific about how you’re helping
foster – unless it’s children
impact – do not use this as a synonym for have an effect on, or influence
key – unless it unlocks something: a subject/thing is not "key", it’s probably important
land – as a verb only use if you’re talking about aircraft
leverage – unless in the financial sense
progress – as a verb: what are you actually doing?
promote – unless you’re talking about an ad campaign or some other marketing promotion
signposting – giving instructions or directions, providing navigation or links
slimming down – processes do not diet
strengthening – unless it’s strengthening bridges or other structures
tackling – unless it’s rugby, football or some other sport
transforming – what are you actually doing to change it?
utilise – use "use"
Avoid using metaphors. They do not say what you actually mean. This is likely to lead to slower comprehension of your content.
drive – you can only drive vehicles, not schemes or people
drive out – unless it’s cattle
going forward – it’s unlikely we are giving travel directions
in order to – superfluous, do not use it
ring fencing – unless you are putting up a fence, in a circle
"per annum", instead "each year"
"eg", instead "for example"
"ie", instead "that is"
"pro bono", instead "for free"
GOV.UK Style guide A to Z, UK Government website
Plain English and words to avoid, UK Government website, listed originally compiled by Sarah Richards and Janet Hughes, 2013
'Jargon in Technical Writing', J. H. Dawson, ARS, Prosser, WA 99350, Weed Technology, 1989, Volumne 3:540 2008
'The Basic Spelling Vocabulary List', Steve Graham, Karen R. Harris, Connie Loynachan, Reading Rockets, 2013
'ASD Simplified Technical English', Simplified Technical English, ASD-STE100, 2017
List of plain English words and phrases, Wikipedia, last updated 2018