Quick, give us your most-hated examples of jargon! We’ll start with a short list of business speak:
- “I’ll circle back on that.”
- “We’ll table that discussion for now.”
- “Let’s dialogue in a bit.” (That’s not even how you use the word “dialogue!” ARGH.)
- Think outside the box
- On my radar
- Drill down
- Reinvent the wheel
- Bandwidth, synergy, disrupt, agile, pivot, game changer, paradigm shift
We’re gonna stop there because this is giving us a headache, and we could easily write another blog post dedicated to phrases and words that we hate.
Even if you don’t work in the corporate world and aren’t surrounded by jargon like this, we’re sure you’ve run into some kind of niche community with their own unique jargon. Jargon isn’t limited to just business.
Athletes, politicians, marketers, nonprofit organizations, influencers, CrossFit enthusiasts: all of these groups (and many more) have their own language with jargon. The problem isn’t that this language exists. The problem is how you may use it to communicate with your audience.
Let’s dig into the problem with jargon and why you shouldn’t use jargon in your marketing.
What is jargon, anyway?
We love Merriam-Webster’s definition of jargon, which describes it as both “the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group” and “obscure and often pretentious language.” Ha! Perfection. Both are true.
If jargon is so annoying, why do we use it? Well, when people naturally gravitate toward each other and form groups based on what we have in common, we tend to develop language unique to the group. Think of how Gen Z slang and memes are completely different from Millennial slang and memes, for example. Jargon turns into a kind of shorthand language that makes it easier or more fun to communicate with one another.
Jargon is also used by people who have really in-depth education, and they forget that not everyone went to school for their specific area of expertise. We’ve seen jargon used by well-meaning physical therapists, who use words like “idiopathic,” or designers who use terms like “vector” and “saturation.” We don’t know what those words mean, and your ideal customer/client might not either!
Jargon becomes a problem when you:
- Forget that it’s jargon and not everyone knows the meaning of these words and phrases
- Use jargon because everyone else is doing it
- Ignore your audience’s needs by using jargon
Let’s talk about how you can fix these problems with just one simple tip.
Write clearly and concisely
That’s it, that’s the tip.
No, really. Keep the mantra “clear and concise” in mind when writing, and you have a good chance of avoiding jargon in your content.
For the record, clear and concise content does not mean you’re dumbing down your language. Nor does it mean you’re spoonfeeding content to your audience, as a popular broetry writer said about another icky writing style we hate.
Writing clearly and concisely helps you reach the broadest audience possible. It helps you communicate your message properly — you know, the message that explains why a person should buy your products, hire you for a service, or support your cause. Why make that message confusing with unnecessary words? That makes it harder to sell your brand and biz.
In some industries and spaces, it can be more confusing not to use jargon in place of a “regular” word. It’s totally fine to use a term specific to your community as long as you either explain what it means, or your context is so perfectly written that the meaning of the word is crystal clear.
A great tool to try is the Hemingway App, which tells you what grade level your writing is at. We aim for 9th grade, but many marketing experts say you should aim for a 4th grade level. (We disagree, as we usually do.)
Speak to your audience like a person
One last tip that will help you avoid stuffing jargon into your content? Speak to your audience like a person. Don’t try to sell, impress, or intimidate with your words. If it makes sense for your brand and offers, talk to your audience as if they’re completely new to your niche community and may not have any idea what your products and services are for.
If you’re…um, quirky, and actually enjoy using jargon in your speech or content, we’re going to break it to you gently here. Jargon isn’t impressive. It’s annoying, turns readers off, and makes people stop listening to what you’re saying. Maybe do a little soul-searching and ask yourself why you fall back on jargon when you could use other words.
Go ahead and use fun jargon when you’re nerding out over Harry Potter or playing video games with friends, or if your boss demands it during meetings (sorry if that’s the case). But when writing content or copy, leave it behind.