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Mind your language…

Every profession spawns a unique vocabulary, often supplemented by acronyms and initialisations bewildering to an outsider. Attend a meeting of Health Professionals and you will be bombarded by a complex internal language, perfectly comprehensible to those working in that field and mind-bending if you do not. This led us to open the chapter on Health in The Politics of Consultation with the not entirely tongue-in-cheek sentence, “Please ensure you have a recent Abbreviation Vaccination Certificate (AVC) in order to make sense of this chapter.”

Of course, this does not only apply to the world of Health. Jargon abounds; it is a very easy trap to fall into and, as long as those you are with also have the key, then it is fine. When ‘outsiders’ are involved it is very important to remember they might not have the faintest clue what you are talking about. This could have serious consequences. Misunderstandings can lead to unnecessary complications consuming time and resources, as well as causing possible resentment.

On many occasions, in training courses and workshops, we have implored those working in the world of public consultation and engagement to be very aware of the dangers of jargon. This means sensitivity is needed when any piece of communication is prepared. The old trick of letting someone else, preferably unconnected with the project, read any document etc is valuable in case you have, inadvertently, lapsed into language which is unsuitable for the intended audience.

In the early days of the Institute, Martin Woodrow painstakingly compiled an Online Glossary of Consultation and Public Engagement Terms which is still available to Members on the tCI website. Starting with Action Research and concluding with Wisdom Council it details a wide range of words and phrases. Many of these are still in regular use but it is fascinating to see how many have slipped out of fashion – do you remember Socrates Café, DigiTV, Community x-change, Gershon Report, even LINks?

So, we are delighted to announce an exciting new Institute project. We are compiling a unique Video Glossary of very specific words and phrases currently used in public consultation and engagement. Each video will be about 60-90 seconds long and have a brief explanation plus a little bit of context. This resource will grow. Please let us know if there are any particular words from the vast vocabulary of consultation terms you would like to see as part of this. We hope this resource will help those in our profession ensure that they use words and phrases to best effect.


Release date will be publicised soon!

About the Author

Elizabeth’s career has taken her from teaching, through work in the public affairs industry and into the world of public consultation and engagement. As a Director of the Institute, she has helped to develop many of its unique products and services since 2003.

Read more about Elizabeth

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