Business English Quick Tips: jargon

Business English Quick Tips

Quick tips to help you write better for business

If you need to write for your job or business in English, these quick tips will help you succeed…

Jargon is a close relative of clichés and acronyms but is sometimes more difficult to avoid, especially when you’re writing to a technically literate audience who use the jargon terms as much as you do and know what they all mean.

Unwanted jargon, specialized terms and other business babble can turn up in all sorts of places, not just technical documents and presentations.

If you’re putting together a company sales meeting, for example, you might sit up until midnight with the engineering people winkling all the jargon out of their boss’s speech on new product specifications, only to find that on the day the finance director does 20 minutes of figures and computations full of financial jargon that not even the CEO understands.

Marketing and advertising people are prone to jargonitis too. FMCG and market segmentation may seem perfectly understandable terms to them but will go over the salesforce’s heads – not a good idea if your marketing director is trying to wow them with enthusiasm for the new corporate ad campaign that’s going to have their customers gagging to buy more from them.

People will often tell you that you can’t remove jargon from business communication without seriously “dumbing it down,” but don’t believe a word of it.  It is possible to make almost any topic understandable to any reasonably intelligent audience without insulting that intelligence. It just takes a bit more effort and thought.

And that brings me neatly to another point to be wary of:  people, especially less-than-adequate people, love to hide behind jargon and other gobbledy-gook. It’s part of that old line about “blinding them with science” and is closely related to the pompous-speak so loved by producers of corporate literature and online text.

In a similar way, using jargon and technical terms makes these people feel important and in control, especially when their audience doesn’t understand what they’re talking about but feels too intimidated to say so.

Not only is that incredibly rude to the audience concerned, but it’s also dangerous. For example, if the person conveying the message isn’t really an expert and is using the jargon wrongly, it won’t be long before someone realizes and bursts out laughing – not good for business.

So does jargon have any advantages?

The main advantage I can see about jargon is that it saves time and cuts out a lot of lengthy explanation, as you’ll see from today’s challenge. Provided you’re sure that people understand it all, your text will be substantially shorter than if you wrote out every term in full.

If you’re unsure about your audience’s level of technical literacy but still want to use jargon they may not understand, a useful solution is to provide readers with a short glossary of the jargon, acronyms, abbreviations etc. as an appendix at the back of the document concerned, or as a clickthough page on a website or blog.

For a really useful 200-page guide to business writing in English, check out “Business Writing Made Easy” – you’ll find it very, very helpful! Click here

And for something a bit different, try the exercises associated with this article in my “30 Day Business Writing Challenge” – Click here

More in a few days … and if you have any questions about business writing in English please add them here in the comments section; I will try to answer them as well as I can!

Suze

Comments

comments

Thoughts

  1. “FMCG and market segmentation…. ”
    What’s FMCG?! ;-0

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