You’re not being honest if you say you hate jargon. You love it. You use it all the time. You love it because:
- It’s efficient: Jargon is code for commonly-discussed concepts. Using jargon saves time in communications.
- It identifies us: Using jargon shows we belong to a sub-culture. Using jargon says “I’m one of you.” You use this code with pride.
You’re likely to use jargon if you’re:
- In a very technical field
- Have a lot of interaction with coworkers
- Not interacting with the general public
- Do a lot of reading or continuing education in your field
But the problem is…
Not everyone is in your subculture and understands what you’re saying. Jargon makes it harder to make a connection with your audience.
How to identify it
See if any of this looks familiar:
Jargon-slingers often want to be your buddy. They’ll offer to touch base, circle the wagons and get people working on the same page. They want to grab low-hanging fruit and move the needle.
But jargon-slingers’ vocabulary hieroglyphics often limit everyone’s bandwidth when the troops really just want to drink from a high-level fire hose while the cement is still wet and the competition is still in the weeds. It’s an issue that can bedevil otherwise effective people from soup to nuts and keep them from becoming the kind of game-changing paradigm-shifters that companies need to take it to the next level.
Here’s a pretty good process for identifying jargon:
- List your commonly used words and phrases
- Run your content through a word cloud generator like Wordle (The image in this blog was created by Wordle. Commonly used words are bigger.)
- Ask someone if they understand your terms
- Google questionable terms to see if they show up outside your industry
But not all jargon is bad
There are times you can use it. Like when your customers use it. Which is very likely if you serve a niche market. Learn your customers jargon and use it to:
- Show you are one of them
- Use fewer words
You need to understand your customers and how they speak. There is a risk of sounding fake. But if you do your research and understand the market, you’re going to show you fit in.
Remember, it’s about your customers. Use their language not yours.