Punctuality Rules!

MM: Jargon

MM: Jargon


Jargon is everywhere. You know–the special, “inside” language that is used by specific industries or groups of people but is completely obscure to Joe Public. (Have you ever tried to read a legal brief? Or a medical journal?) Referring to an addressed envelope as a SASE. Calling the newsperson in front of the camera the Talent. Saying a project given a go-ahead is Green-Lighted. Calling a piece of undeliverable mail a Nixie.

The thing you need to be aware of is that jargon, by its very nature, puts a wall between you and everybody else. You might know exactly what you mean when you say your company was “down-sized,” but will everybody? Are you deliberately using it to obfuscate your meaning? Or, is your meaning confusing because you assume that everyone you’re talking to will be familiar with the jargon? If you’re trying to be obscure, or if you’re gearing your writing to a very specific set of people who have their own, very specific way of speaking (lawyers, computer geeks, photographers, rap stars), jargon may be fine.

But be wary. If you aren’t careful, your use of jargon could impede the transference of data segments to the mental computational devices of the written-word scanner.

(In other words, jargon may interfere with your information getting into your reader’s brain.)

11 thoughts on “MM: Jargon

  1. Karen Swim

    Hi Deb, I worked in healthcare for more than 20 years and you are right about jargon! However, in marketing my job was to ensure jargon free messaging that could be understood by the average consumer. People seem less cognizant of embracing others in their communication. Text messaging offers a good example of this practice. People assume that everyone knows the “jargon” and have resorted to using them in not only text but email. I still follow the practice of spelling out (and explaining) an acronym in the first mention of it so that a wall is not created. After all isn’t the point of communication, to communicate?

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Student ‘Twitters’ his way out of Egyptian jail

  2. --Deb Post author

    @Karen–One would certainly hope so! Because, well, that’s what communicating is FOR. Some people just seem to take it as a challenge, to make it as obscure as possible. Those are the kinds of people who like to know secrets just for the sake of knowing them…. (grin)

  3. --Deb Post author

    Clearly, a legal brief needs to be written in legalese, I accept that. But outside a professional arena? It’s like a police officer talking like he’s writing a report, when he answers the question “How was your day?”

  4. Melissa Donovan

    Jargon is one of those words that I love. Something about it really appeals to me. However, I have been a victim of industry jargon and I can tell you it is not pleasant when someone rambles on about TCP reports and you have only been with the company for a week and have no idea what the heck TCP stands for. Grr. But still, I love that word!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Briefs are Not Just Underwear

  5. Robyn

    Deb, I’ve had this feeling about jargon a long time. When in my doctoral program, there was specific language I had to learn, because at times focused on complex processes, for instance. These words could be picked up and understood by others in the field who read academic journals. However, when writing to a general audience academics leave this kind of jargon behind [hopefully]. So, I guess that it depends on what you are writing and for whom.

    Robyn’s last blog post..Let Me Pick Your Brain!

  6. Judy H.

    I totally agree with everything you said. Jargon out of place is a waste of words.

    But, in fiction, jargon can be the detail that makes your characters come alive! You have to be careful that the jargon is explained by context, but a cop needs to talk like a cop, a lawyer like a lawyer, etc.

    (Oh, and Melissa’s right. Jargon is a fun word to say. Jargon, jargon, jargon…)