TCUK17 Keynote Speaker Frances Gordon – “Dealing with jargon and technical terms”


Keynote speaker Frances Gordon will also give a presentation at TCUK17 on “Dealing with jargon and technical terms”.

Photo of Frances Gordon

A lack of clarity about jargon often gets in the way of clear, topic-based writing. This presentation gives a method for how to deal with jargon. Jargon are terms with a specific technical meaning – often problems arise not from the jargon itself, but from users ascribing different meanings to the same jargon term, or using different jargon terms for the same meaning. It’s important to research jargon with users so that you can find out not only whether users understand the jargon, but how well, and how consistently across the organisation.

There are two main methods to test jargon – scenario-based user testing, which draws on the field of UX, and comprehension testing. Each has its purpose, and both methods should be used in jargon explorations.

After identifying jargon problems through research, writers need to make and document decisions on whether to replace jargon or define it. If defining, it’s important to keep the definition as short as possible, and to avoid the temptation of including explanations, examples, or substantive content in the definition. Although often used only by lawyers, a drafting table can be a very useful tool for technical writers too.

Frances Gordon’s keynote talk is about “Why topic-based writing and plain language need each other”.

About Frances Gordon

Frances’ career started in rural South Africa where she wrote and designed educational materials for low literacy adults.

During her 20-year career, she has held tenures at Datatec/Logical as communications strategist, at London-based Siegel & Gale as Head of Content (EMEA), and at Barclaycard as VP of Content Strategy (UK).

Together with lawyer, Candice Burt, Frances co-founded Simplified, a plain-language and content training and consultancy firm. Its services include communication and content strategy, writing coaching, content audits, Treating Customers Fairly consultancy, and plain-language rewrites. Over 5 000 professionals, from lawyers to technical communicators, have benefited from the Simplified training programme.

Frances has worked on content for blue-chip international companies such as Alexander Forbes, MTN, Liberty Group, NS&I, Old Mutual and Vitality. She also has an active interest in financial inclusion programmes in frontier and emerging markets.

Frances sat on the board of international plain language organisation, PLAIN (Plain Language Association InterNational). She was part of the advisory committee of IC Clear, an EU-funded initiative that developed a post-graduate course in clear communication. She is an active member of Clarity in the UK, which is an organisation devoted to writing legal information clearly.