This morning, I reached out to members of another forum to solicit help with a diabetes technology question. The first response I received was helpful but did not address the root cause of what I was observing.
The second response asked me, "Did you check the ‘widget arm on the maniform’? (Not the literal term but as equally obfuscating.) When I responded that I was not familiar with the “widget arm on the maniform,” they followed up with another attempt to clarify my problem by using another specialized term that I had no familiarity. I admitted my unfamiliarity with their language and politely requested that s/he use simple terms.
Their answer? Crickets.
Here’s a dictionary definition of jargon.
When I returned to school to complete my college degree many years ago, I took an English composition class. I remember that the primary responsibility of the writer was to take his readers from where they are to where he wanted them to go.
I despise undefined jargon in the written form. I know why it’s done – it’s a simple shorthand way to compact a lot of meaning into a short form. It works best when used in the context of a group who all understand the definitions of the jargon used. When I was a shop avionics technician, we talked in acronyms all day long.
Our audience at TuDiabetes does not share a complete knowledge of all the acronyms that many of us have incorporated into our vocabulary.
Think about the perspective of a newly diagnosed diabetic when they come to a forum like this and they receive the following comments or suggestions:
What was your IOB at the time?
Do you use RAAI or some other medication?
Did you stack your insulin?
Were you diagnosed with DKA?
Do you use MDI or CSII?
Use of these terms, without an embedded or contextual definition, smacks of elitism, laziness, and exclusion. A newly joined member of this community may feel totally un-welcomed and intimidated by what they might perceive as a knowledge base that is frightfully beyond their reach.
I know many parts of our common culture play fast and loose with acronyms. It can be great fun to interact with other people who understand it and it facilitates the fast-paced and entertaining rhythm of the exchange.
But there’s a dark side to that communication style, one that is clubby and exclusionary. In a forum meant to reach out to people who share our physical misfortune, we should always put in the extra effort to define our terms and make people feel welcome. It takes more work but over time will bring you better responses to your efforts to help.
I try to define all the acronyms I use and will try to translate mg/dL into mmol/L (units of blood glucose measurements). I know I’m not perfect in this but I think my effort helps.
Please consider this aspect and when you review your post or comment and ask yourself, “If I were newly diagnosed and bewildered by this new world I’ve been involuntarily been thrust into, would I easily understand what I’ve written?”
Edited title to replace “poison” with “undermine,” and “communications” with “communication.”