AVOIDING JARGON. This week we’re going to get much more tactical. We’re talking JARGON.
In this week’s newsletter and podcast, you’ll learn:
- 3 types of jargon
- the impact of jargon, some good, but mostly bad
- please avoid these jargon PET PEEVES
I wonder if you share my pet peeves?
WHAT IS JARGON?
Jargon is a word or phrase that is frequently and often necessarily repeated, specific to a particular group, and/or gratuitously “big.” Three types of jargon:
- Popular words or phrases that are used so frequently that they often become meaningless.
- Some buzzwords have been used for years or even decades, like the word “leverage” or the phrase “thinking outside the box.”
- Some buzzwords are trendy. PET PEEVE #1: Consider trendy words or phrases such as “PIVOT” or “now more than ever.”
2. SPECIALIST OR CORPORATE JARGON
- These are the words, phrases or acronyms that are relevant only in a specific context.
- A typical example of this is the words you use at work for industry or firm-specific departments, technologies, competencies, or titles.
- These are the unnecessarily long, oftentimes prefix- and suffix-infused words.
- PET PEEVE #2: My “big word” pet peeve? “UTILIZE.” As in, “we plan to utilize our resources for whatever.” (Do you mean USE? You want to USE your resources? Why add two extra syllables?)
- Forty years ago advertising guru David Ogilvy clarified his stance on “big words” in an internal memo to Ogilvy & Mather employees:
What else can jargon do?
WHY WE SHOULD AVOID JARGON
Jargon can be WRONG
- Here’s my PET PEEVE #3. Have you noticed how people incorrectly use the term “LITERALLY”? As in, “I literally love this!” (Literally? As opposed to figuratively, as we learned in English class? I don’t think so. Do you mean you love this very much? I thought so…)
- On one hand, jargon can signal expertise. On the other hand, people might perceive that we’re hiding something.
- Consider the jargon used by politicians when they answer a question. The jargon comes out in full force, with phrases like “let me be very clear,” “tackling the real issues,” and “lots of work to be done.” They’re filling the airtime, but saying nothing. We’re left wondering, what are they hiding? (Perhaps it’s the fact that they don’t want to say anything too specific, for fear of being accountable?)
- Suddenly people are focusing on your jargon instead of your message!
- Perhaps our intention was to signal our expertise. Unfortunately with some people, these signals can be alienating.
- Have you ever been in a meeting when someone’s using way too much jargon? It’s annoying! “STOP! PLAIN LANGUAGE PLEASE!”
- Pivot (Yes, it’s even the name of my favourite podcast, but PLEASE stop pivoting!)
- Utilize (Apparently I’m not the only one with this pet peeve. Check out this blog For the love of all that is holy, stop writing “utilize”)
- Literally (No, that has nothing to do with being literal. What you mean is “really” or “actually.”)
And please forward this email to anyone who might like to learn about communication skills. Thank you!
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach