Deciphering techno-babble

Translating technical jargon to plain English is no perambulation on the jurisdictional wetland.

The MOA stipulates that the HPP adapt context sensitive solutions to mitigate the altered viewshed and that jurisdictional wetland delineation be included in the BA.

I’m sorry—what?

That was my initial reaction as I stepped gingerly through the verbal minefield that is transportation communications. Working in public involvement on infrastructure projects, it seems there’s a techno-jargon phrase ready to detonate at every turn.

In my first transportation project meeting, I wasn’t taking notes so much as writing down techno-terms so I could look them up later. What were they talking about? I mean, come on, “jurisdictional wetland delineation?” Are you kidding me? I knew I was really in trouble when they handed me a five-page, single-spaced, alphabetized list of acronyms!

I’d wondered how my 25 years of journalism experience was going to translate into the PR world. As it turns out, it translated into translating.

A local newspaper editor, who covers one of my projects, put it like this: “Mitigation sounds like a big word to most people. To me, it represents government-speak for “ease your pain” and would immediately be edited out of normal newspaper copy by changing it to something that more resembles plain English.”

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