Adeela Warley: Beyond jargon – communicating with a purpose

Use bold and powerful language, but imbue it with meaning, purpose and clarity – or pointless comms could put your reputation and cause at risk

Jargon has infected the lexicon of all aspects of life, from politics, journalism, television, and the arts. Charity communications are no exception.

And because you can’t separate the jargon from the person or organisation using it, there’s an inherent reputational risk.

What does “levelling up” – a government mantra for over a year now – really mean?

Unlike Boris’s “oven-ready Brexit”, it fails to conjure up easy images. Communications theorists have debated the metaphors it draws on, from rising tides, gaming platforms and even Formula 1 cars firing on all cylinders – pick one, or any, but do they really help?

Is “levelling up” about spreading prosperity to areas of deprivation, or infrastructure investment across the nation?

The lack of coherent and consistent meaning puts both the political intention and public engagement at risk.

The charity Bloody Good Period is uncompromising in its use of language and imagery, saying: “We fight for period equity because everyone deserves a bloody good period.”

It’s brave, arresting, normalising and unforgettable, and it couldn’t be anyone else but them.

By all means, use bold and powerful language that sticks in the mind and fires up our emotions – but imbue it with meaning, purpose, and clarity.

Without it, your communications risk being pointless and a potential risk to reputation and cause.

Cultural commentator Jonathan Meades describes jargon, in his excoriating and provocative style, as the “prissy net curtains of language” – the language of the liar.

That is strong stuff, and should give all good communicators pause for thought as they hover over their keyboards.

Adeela Warley is the chief executive of CharityComms


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