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We all want to get our message across – to change behaviour, to increase understanding, to make a difference. Or all three.

When sustainability is your goal, the stakes are high.  As communicators, we’re often fighting against the myths and misconceptions as well as the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the bigger issues.

All before we even look at how our audience wants to be communicated with.

The ATO is revamping its ‘boring’ correspondence without backlash, but a Melbourne council was recently lambasted for hiring a plain English expert to help rework its communications. Plain language forums and firms abound, as do guides for government departments and scientists to use them, and certainly contracts, laws and complex issues need to apply clearer communication rules. Using an expert to guide you through tax law or superannuation is considered prudent – why not hire a an expert for translating jargon into plain speak when it comes to talking directly with the community?

The UK government has had a plain speak ethos for some time, and many Australian governments are attempting to do similarly (notably, the Federal government style guide is long overdue for an update!).

Where are the sustainability-related style guides? How do we stop the ‘fuel poverty’ and ‘energy solutions’ muddying the waters of our clear community conversations?

Sustainability Victoria published its recycling hit list and named some of the worst offenders when discussing waste and recycling. And the Oxford-based Climate Outreach often includes language recommendations in its research resources (like this example on avoiding the term fuel poverty when talking with social housing tenants about energy saving).

Jargon and cliché can have their place, but communicating clearly doesn’t always come naturally. Pun, and cliché, intended.

What are your pet peeves? Share below!

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