Monday, May 08, 2006

Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Jargon: Reason # 5

Nearly every profession or line of work has a language -- jargon -- that's unique to it. (Hobbies even have their own jargon -- sailing's a good example: ropes are called "lines", left is called "port", etc.)

It probably took you awhile to become familiar with the jargon of your profession or business and to learn exactly when and how to use it. Learning to use the words appropriately and with confidence was probably even a right of passage and is a skill you're likely proud of mastering. You may even consider fluency in the use of this jargon as a way of demonstrating your special knowledge and qualifications.

But, have you ever considered the fact that using jargon can actually work against you?

When I try to convince professionals and business people that they shouldn't use jargon, I'm often met with skeptical looks and sometimes even with lengthy explanations about the importance and role of jargon in their particular field.

Borrowing a technique that's popular with magazines of all sorts -- from Cosmo and Toro to People and Fortune -- I've come up with a list of what I call the Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Jargon.

So, I'll be sharing my list in blog postings over the next little while, starting here with reason #5 for avoiding jargon: Using jargon can put people off. (If you're the type who's more impressed with bigger words, let me re-phrase it: by using professional jargon you risk alienating potential customers and clients.)

Think about it, when you can't understand what someone's saying, what do you do? You might ask them to explain -- but doing that takes courage (after all, you risk looking dumb) and it takes time and patience to wait for more information or an explanation. Another alternative is that you might seek the advice of someone else -- someone who explains things in ways you can understand.

If you believe either of these alternatives (making someone feel dumb or causing them to turn to someone else) are bad for your business, then you'll agree that explaining things using simple, easy to understand words -- in other words, avoiding jargon -- makes good business sense.

2 Comments:

Blogger Brandon Campbell said...

As a programmer I have to be careful when interacting with non-it people for instance, sales and marketing, end users or customers. This is especially hard when I am not the only programmer in the conversation.

2:57 PM  
Blogger J. B. Loewen said...

jargon is tempting but can keep your work from "pulling ahead of the race".

8:48 AM  

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