Why I hate jargon (and you should too)

I have a confession to make: I hate jargon. I really, really hate it. 

It could be because I worked as a journalist for 10 years and regularly read press releases filled with clunky corporate words like incentivize, synergy, deliverable and impactful — words that don't mean much outside of a corporate setting. Sorting out what these press releases were really trying to say was a lot of work. Sometimes, I didn't bother.

An editor of mine taught me a lot about jargon after he heavily edited a story I wrote about a minor crime. I'd inadvertently used the police jargon from the original press release.

"What does "the male fled on foot" mean?" my editor asked me. 

"It means the man ran away," I said. 

"Write that." 

Why jargon doesn't work 

We all use jargon sometimes, especially if our work is in a specialized field. Every industry has its own language and way of communicating. It's hard not to get caught up in that. Maybe you think using big words and long, complex sentences on your website and in your blog posts makes you sound smarter. 

It doesn't.

You risk losing your audience or making them feel dumb. You also risk sounding pompous and out of touch, when there's a good chance you aren't. It's possible to speak the language of your industry — especially if you're B2B — while still communicating simply and clearly. 

Here are 3 tips for banishing jargon from your communications: 

1. Use a story to make your point

You can only say that you offer unbeatable customer service so many times before it becomes meaningless. Instead, tell the story of the time you exceeded the expectations of a customer or client.

Maybe your team worked until midnight to meet an unexpected deadline. Maybe you sourced rare bamboo flooring for your customer's new home when every other supplier said it couldn't be done. Stories stay with people. Jargon just makes them frustrated. 

2. Identify and replace

Grab a red pen and do your best to identity the jargon in your writing. Circle the complex words you think only your team would understand and then do your best to write an explanation of what it means in plain language. This will take some practice. 

Here's an example: 

Jargon: "Upper management incentivized the team to expedite their deliverables." 

Plain language: "The CEO offered monthly bonuses to team members who could meet the client deadline early." 

3. Get an outside perspective

It can be challenging to identify jargon when you're too close to the subject matter. Ask a colleague from a different industry to read your content and flag the words that don't make sense or sound too much like jargon. You'll soon get the hang of it. 

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