Susan 🐝 Rooks, The Grammar Goddess

4 years ago · 2 min. reading time · visibility 0 ·

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Please! Ease Up on the Jargonese!

Keep It Short and Simple
Years ago, one of my daughters got a job in an industry she wasn’t familiar with. After a couple of weeks of learning the ropes, she showed me her paper notebook (this was in the late ’90s, I think, before tablets and all that), which she had filled with words, terms, and phrases she wasn’t sure of.

These were all industry / company insider talk, aka jargon. Words that sometimes had special meaning in the industry, with a different one elsewhere. Phrases that, depending on context, could mean A or B even in the industry. And terms that were industry-specific, meaning hardly anyone outside of the industry ever used them or had even heard of them!

I admired her ability to recognize the need to learn those words – how else was she going to do her job well, fit in with everyone, and understand the nuances of that particular workplace?

Fast-forward to 2017.

Has the use of jargon gone away? Hardly! A lot of writers are suddenly commenting on this topic, so it’s still around -- and growing exponentially, it seems.

Jargon is hot – only not.

Is using jargon all bad?


Are there plusses to using jargon?

Sure. In the right setting.

  • Jargon identifies a known event / fact / property / idea among insiders.
  • It’s a sensible shortcut among peers; it’s efficient.
  • It’s a way of separating insiders and outsiders.

But it’s also terribly confusing for anyone not in the know, like newcomers to a group, and who wants to be the one who says, “I have NO idea what you’re talking about”? Even if we do know what you’re saying, sometimes we just want to grab you and beg, “STOP! Enough already. Talk to me in regular, everyday English!”

The first page of my Brush Up on Your Business Writing Skills program has a list of questions to consider before writing, the first two of which are:

  • Why are you writing to this reader?
  • How much does this reader know about the specific topic you’re writing about?

We talk about the reality that many (most?) of us write for ourselves, not our audience. We may not even consider whether our readers will understand what we’ve written, and in business, that can mean the difference between getting something done or not, or of keeping clients or losing them to a smarter communicator.

If you’re a financial specialist, constantly mentioning the Dow Jones Average (which we’ve heard of but may be unable to explain adequately), market share, or fiduciary responsibilities to your clients -- the list of possible terms is endless, mind-numbing, and completely offputting to most of us -- almost guarantees you and your clients will not be together long.

Attorneys who talk about codicils, default judgments, or guardians ad litem without properly explaining what they mean may lose their client to another attorney who takes the time to speak in plain English.

Medical professionals who use all the acronyms and abbreviations that 99% of us do not understand are going to have many of us running to find a new person to help us!

Heck, even grammar has jargon, terms that mean something to me but maybe not to you: coordinate adjective, elliptical clause, imperative mood, the subjunctive.

I can see your eyes rolling.

But we’re not talking about dumbing it down either -- far from it. We’re merely acknowledging that we all know a lot, but no one knows everything. To create rapport through clear communication, we need to find the common elements.

Remember: We are not experts in YOUR world. If we were, we wouldn't need you.

So perhaps the next time you start using all that “Jargonese,” you’ll remember that your audience might not understand. Maybe you’ll ask yourself: Is there a better way to communicate this?

Two years ago, I wrote an article called The KISS Principle -- My Way that addressed this idea of being clear from a slightly different direction. You might find something in it that helps you communicate even more clearly.

Oh, what’s my idea of the KISS Principle?


And for an interesting, relevant article in this month’s Entrepreneur magazine:

What are YOUR thoughts on this? How do you communicate clearly to your audience?

If this post helped you in any way, please find it relevant and/or share the information with your followers. Let’s all learn together!

For more articles, check out my website

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And thanks for that, Joyce \ud83d\udc1d Bowen Brand Ambassador @ beBee! Analog tech? Seriously? I have not the slightest idea what that means. See?
Welcome to the wonderful and weird world I live in, Proma \ud83d\udc1d Nautiyal! Nice to see you here, and I hope to see you again!
Because each of us is smart about many things, Preston \ud83d\udc1d Vander Ven, but not about ALL things, we do have to keep things simple. While I know the formal names for parts of speech, and the moods we express by the verbs we use, I don't use the terms ever in my posts because probably 99% of my readers wouldn't understand me. They might even resent my use of terms like imperative, indicative, and subjunctive moods of verbs . . . yes. I can see your eyes rolling right now! It's a classic case of TMI, and not useful for anyone, even me. I often ask others to dumb it down, not because I'm dumb but because in their world I'm not smart. Love how you ended your comment: Less is sometimes more. Yes.
I learned that about abbreviations and acronyms as well, John Rylance! And I always hated the Keep it Simple, Stupid; it's just too darn easy to label others in a negative way and then end up treating them the way we "see" then. Thanks for always commenting on my posts here! I really appreciate your support.

Proma 🐝 Nautiyal

4 years ago #15

I came across this post by Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, the Grammar Goddess

Proma 🐝 Nautiyal

4 years ago #14

Thank you for the buzz, Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks, the Grammar Goddess. I totally agree with you. Jargonese [love the term :-)] should be kept to a minimum while talking to people who are not accustomed to these particular words or phrases. I always feel it's intelligent to present content and context, in a simple manner instead of over-complicating it. After all, we are writing to communicate our thoughts and opinions, and it would be totally pointless if we could not do it effectively. Sharing this wonderful post. :-)
When I attended computer school, instructors informed us we should prepare to become the loneliest people in the world, because no one would know what we were talking about. They were right. Our jargonise was so complicated I shivered when someone asked me what I did for a living. But my situation became far worse when I moved into the world of analog tech. It's been years since I toiled in those trenches.
And that's so true of most of the industries we work(ed) at, right, Franci\ud83d\udc1dEugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador?
Oh, I was so guilty of this when I worked. We would shorten insurance terms to a few letters, for example, AL stood for Auto Liability, which was fine in our discussions among ourselves. However, outside the office, no one understood what we meant.
Thanks for joining in the conversation, @El mribte Mohammed! I agree completely.
And there is much confusion in any area, right, @Brian McKenzie?
OH!!!!! Ken Boddie, you have so outdone yourself with that poem! I just love it, and I'm going to share it around. Thank you so much!

Debasish Majumder

4 years ago #7

nice share Susan \ud83d\udc1d Rooks! enjoyed read and shared. thank you for the share.

El mribte Mohammed

4 years ago #6

A very interesting topics as usual. Sometimes we are obliged to use the Jargon because we don't know how to say it in a simple way, or more than that we can be confused if we didn't use the specific jargon. However i'm with you that we have to keep it short and's like when we try to explain something to a children. I think that the most we can be short and simple we will see success..Thank you very much Susan

Ken Boddie

4 years ago #5

I quote the KISS principle often, Susan, when I am mentoring younger engineers, peer reviewing reports and giving the odd lecture on project management and/or report presentation. Hence, simplifying the soils descriptions of gaggles of geotechnical engineers, clarifying the contributions of whiffs of contamination environmentalists, and purifying the pontifications of pools of groundwater specialists, who all love to impress with their own peculiar jargon, can be a challenge. So if I, being one who speaks fluent ground-grunt, struggle with their various terminologies, what hope has the client of staying awake, particularly if the sentences are also long and convoluting? So ..... If you want your message read, And you're keen for it to spread, Leave your jargon words behind, Or your work will be maligned, Woo your client with the KISS, And you'll never go amiss.

John Rylance

4 years ago #4

Like all forms of communication Jargon is constantly evolving to meet new situations or to keep the insiders in and the outsiders out. As a political cartoon said "We must create some new jargon they are starting to understand what we are talking about" We've all been either insiders or outsiders as far as Jargon goes. Jargon is like a secret code. The fun being creating it or decoding it.
Sposta do it that way, John Rylance, but often writers assume (and we know what that does, right?) that their readers and/or listeners are on the same wavelength as they are. Too often the communication isn't as clear as it could be due to terms of all sorts that are not understood in the same way! And yes, I learned Keep; it Simple, Stupid -- but that doesn't work for me. Calling someone stupid doesn't keep a relationship on a good footing, so I changed it just a little.
Great advice, Jim Saelzler!

John Rylance

4 years ago #1

Good advice Susan. With regard to acronyms I was always taught the first time you use them in a written piece or when speaking is to say/write it in full. Example - Gross National Product (GNP) Then subsequently only use the acronym. This avoids misunderstandings as to meaning. Example - KISS, to you that is Keep it Short and Simple, to me it has stood for Keep it Simple Stupid. (Actually I prefer your politer version) When training people I encouraged them to ask if they didn't understand or wanted to check they understood. I never resented explaining what I had said/written. It pays for both sides to treat the exchanges as a learning opportunity. Them to learn new things, me to learn how better to deliver the message.

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