I have been away from this blog awhile, as I spent my father's last ten days with him, then planned and attended his funeral. As you can imagine, stress and sadness colored the days.
Acronyms and abbreviations made the process worse. In the eight days I sat at my father's hospital bedside, they came my way day after day: PICC line, PEG tube, BP, DNRO, PT, etc.
My father's doctor was the worst offender. My conversations with him consisted of his stating one or two sentences and my asking "What does that mean?" and "What does that mean to my father?" It seemed the doctor could hardly speak without saying something I had to decode.
My father spent his last two days in a hospice home, where jargon was never spoken. What a relief! I understood everything.
Why were the hospice people able to speak without jargon? Maybe it's because they understood that their main job was to give comfort. They were accompanying my father in his final journey, and they were there to help him maintain his dignity and to reduce the pain. They understood their purpose.
Medical staff and hospice workers see people at their most vulnerable, when clear rather than confusing communication can mean the difference between comfort and heightened anxiety. But even if your communication is not life or death, you can learn something from their behavior and its effect on others.
If your purpose as a writer is to communicate, ask yourself whether your readers will understand every word, phrase, and abbreviation you use–without having to grab a dictionary or open their browser to search for a clue. Being able to understand you immediately will increase your readers' comfort, understanding, and confidence in you.
Have you ever felt the way I did at my father's bedside? How do you jargon-check your own writing? Please share your experiences.