How to strike a balance between clinical jargon and everyday language
I come from the era where Neil Patrick Harris was a teenager with his medical degree — good ol’ Doogie Howser. And I admit it: I binged on General Hospital in college and rooted for Dr. Grey to end up with McDreamy just a few years ago.
If you’ve watched any show that takes place in a healthcare setting, you know they throw around complex medical jargon from time to time. They also have music, facial expressions, tone of voice and 45 minutes of not using medical jargon to make it relatable to the average Jane and Joe.
But healthcare marketers don’t have that much time or as many non-verbal cues to get our audience to understand and connect with us. We can’t just throw around fancy words like “gamma knife technology” and “ventricular tachycardia” and expect the audience to flock to us.
“But Bethany,” you say. “Our neurosurgeons need exposure by creating a campaign about this really complicated sounding procedure for this really complicated sounding condition.”
Not a problem. There’s always a way to turn your jargon-y healthcare messaging into easy-to-understand copy.
Here are five tips to increase healthcare literacy so the people reading your message can actually understand it.
- Break up your copy. We are constantly flooded with advertising and more people are zipping through articles and ads. Make it easier to scan with bullet points and bolded subheads when your copy is longer. Short sentences also help your reader take more in at a faster pace.
- Explain the fancy words and phrases. We can’t always avoid medical jargon. So, when you need to use it, follow up with an explanation of what it means using language everyone can understand.
- Use imagery or graphics. Consider the message you are trying to send when choosing visuals. If you want to add more warmth to your message, find a picture that makes you feel positive and compassionate. If want to make a point about your quality care, maybe an icon that represents awards would be a better option. Whatever you choose will help convey feeling and make it more exciting to read.
- Avoid passive voice. When you make the object of an action the subject of a sentence, you’ve created a passive sentence. Let’s try to avoid that. Passive sentences are typically much more difficult to understand. You can always check your passive voice in Microsoft Word:
- STEP 1: Highlight the copy you want to check
- STEP 2: Click on “Tools” in your menu bar
- STEP 3: Select “Spelling and Grammar” in the drop-down menu
- STEP 4: Choose “no” when it asks you to continue spell-checking the rest of the document
- STEP 5: Your “Readability Statistics” window will appear and show you the percentage of passive sentences in your copy. Magical!
- Check the reading level of your copy. Everyone (including doctors) prefers to read at a sixth-grade reading level. Writing at a lower reading level doesn’t mean the copy isn’t as good. What makes your copy good is the story you tell and how relatable your copy is to your audience. You can find out the reading level of your copy by following the same steps in tip #4.
We aren’t always marketing well-known conditions and treatments. But by making complicated copy easier to read, we help educate our communities and increase the number of people acting on our message.
You won’t learn that by watching Doogie Howser.
Bethany Rucinski is a Senior Copywriter at Core Creative.