Why Jargon Could Be Your Worst Enemy

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Copywriters, marketers and brand ambassadors of the world, listen up. Jargon might just be your worst enemy.

We think using industry terminology or jargon makes us look smarter, but sometimes it can have completely opposite effects and make even the most well-written piece ineffective. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines jargon as “confused, unintelligible language.” Even the dictionary isn’t too keen on it! But there are other reasons why using too much jargon can backfire.

  • Not everyone knows what you’re talking about: Even if you’re dealing with highly technical subject matter, not everyone will know the industry lingo. Using too much of it alienates those potential customers who aren’t quite up to snuff on the terminology used by your industry.
  • You sound phony: When I read content that’s riddled with jargon, one thing inevitably crosses my mind: they don’t know what they’re talking about. You think jargon makes you sound super smart, but too much of it makes me wonder what you’re hiding. Are you using all those fancy words, acronyms and phrases because you just have nothing else to say? Your audience is too intelligent for that and will see right through it.
  • You’re making your audience feel dumb: Jargon could make you sound like you know what you’re talking about, but it can also teeter on the edge of talking down to people. If someone doesn’t understand what you’re saying, they’re not going to feel very intelligent. And what marketer wants to make potential customers feel stupid?

You don’t want your company to be perceived poorly because you use industry jargon, but sometimes using jargon is inevitable. Technical subject matter often requires some degree of industry lingo, so how do you use it without sending the wrong impression?

  • Explain the jargon. Jargon actually presents a perfect opportunity for you to educate your audience. Define the jargon right on the spot and use examples to further explain what you’re talking about. Creating a glossary section on your website is also a great way to do this.
  • Try to replace the word. Your best bet is to try to replace the jargon with more familiar terminology.
  • Spell out acronyms. Acronyms should always be completely written out on the first mention of them. It’s a quick way to clear up any confusion.
  • Use pictures. Pictures give you the opportunity to illustrate what you’re talking about without using any words at all.
  • Edit away! Often times, we use jargon in long, technical sentences. Edit sentences down so you use the fewest number of words possible.
  • Test it out. Send what you wrote to a non-expert. If they don’t understand what you wrote, go back to the drawing board.

Using too much jargon can confuse your audience, but it also destroys that sense of trust you’re trying to build. So instead of relying on fancy industry terminology to convince your audience, persuade them by using facts and language that build trust.

About Fathom Team Member

2 Comments

  • Leigh Hammans says:

    Great article and totally agree – but then I come to the author’s details and I have to wonder what on earth ‘Content Onboarding’ is!!

    • Caroline Bogart says:

      Hi Leigh,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! In reference to your question, “content onboarding” just means that in my position I’m responsible for mentoring our new copywriters throughout the first few months of employment here. I’m their sounding board for any questions they have, advice they’re seeking, etc.

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