Posted: 11th May 2015
The dictionary definition says it is:
1. “Specialised language concerned with a particular subject, culture or profession;
2. language characterised by pretentious syntax, vocabulary or meaning; and
The word comes from Old French, possibly from the Old French gargouiller meaning to gargle or make a gurgling sound with the throat.
Jargon invades much of our lives, both in written and verbal communication. For those of us running businesses and competing for customers, the ability to write clearly and simply in everyday language is vitally important. Read on if you what to know how to appeal to more of your customers, more of the time. The only thing you have to lose is your jargon!
We all speak in code. Each of the world’s 6,000 languages is a separate code. However, within each language we have also developed specialist words and phrases to describe and explain particular activities and functions. These words may also describe particular objects or abstract concepts. Whether you are in education, engineering, IT, finance, sales, marketing or human relations we all use our own code.
The problem is that your customers may not understand your code. Not only that, potential customers may not understand it either. They may decide not to do business with you simply on the basis that you ‘don’t talk their language.’
Recognise where you need to use specialist language in your business and then make sure that this is kept to a minimum. Where you do need to use such words, make sure their meaning is made clear in all your communications so that whoever reads them will understand them first time.
An acronym is a pronounceable name made up of a series of initial letters or parts of words: e.g. UNESCO. The most common acronyms are made up of three letters and are used as short hand in both writing and speech. In writing, it is always good practice to spell out the full name or phrase when it first appears and then put the acronym in brackets straight afterwards. So, ” The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) …” If there are a lot of TLAs in your document, you should consider including their full versions in a glossary.
“Numerous persons entertain the sentiment that the succinct terminology we habitually employ when we converse is not sufficiently grandiose to be committed to writing. In my opinion, they are under a misapprehension. A succinct and unextraordinary vocabulary will well-nigh invariably create a superior impression on the peruser in comparison with with flatulent periphrastic phraseology and meretricious sequipidalian verbiage.”
Hmmmm! What language is this? Can you understand it? Have you given up on it? The answers are: yes, it’s English and no, you probably didn’t understand it without difficulty and you may well have given up on it!
Make sure your business writing doesn’t fall into this trap. You can be professional without being pretentious and your customers will be forever grateful.
” In relation to specific goals, a primary interrelationship between system and/or subsystem technologies adds overriding performance constraints to the total system rationale. ” It does? Well, what do you know? I never would have thought it!
Or how about this from British Airways’ Terms and Conditions:
CHARGES FOR CHANGES AND CANCELLATION
NOTE-CANCELLATIONS-BEFORE DEPARTURE FARE REFUNDABLE. IF COMBINING A NON-REFUNDABLE FARE WITH A REFUNDABLE FARE ONLY THE Y/C/J-CLASSHALF RETURN AMOUNT CAN BE REFUNDED. AFTER DEPARTURE FARE IS REFUNDABLE. IF COMBINING A NON-REFUNDABLE FARE WITH A REFUNDABLE FARE REFUND THE DIFFERNCE /IF ANY/ BETWEEN THE FARE PAID AND THE APPLICABLE NORMAL BA ONEWAY FARE.
CHANGES/UPGRADES PERMITTED ANY TIME.
(Just as well, as I wouldn’t want to cancel after all that!)
Banks, government departments, the European Commission, and private companies are all guilty of these crimes against clear language and understanding.
1. Use simple, clear everyday words and phrases.
2. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
3. Use Word to check for readability