The language you use can have a significant impact on how your writing is received. Beyond dictating how easy your content is to understand, the language used shapes the piece’s personality, tone, and overall style.
As a general rule, you should aim to use language that is accessible and conversational. Exactly what this looks like will depend on your target audience, but you should always avoid using jargon.
There are many reasons you should avoid using jargon in your writing – here are my top three:
Reason #1: Jargon excludes
When you write, you want the appeal of your content to be as broad as possible – particularly if you’re trying to sell something or attract a new audience.
Jargon, by definition, is the language of the few. It’s a niche vernacular, born out of specialist knowledge or shared experience. Its very nature means that only a select audience will understand it.
For example, hospital staff regularly use medical lingo to convey sensitive information to each other. This jargon is usually picked up through formal education or training, so most patients do not understand it. As such, it’s a language that medical professionals can use with each other, without others understanding exactly what they are saying.
Reason #2: Jargon is subjective
When you write, you want your content to be as clear as possible, to as many people as possible – particularly if you’re trying to educate or inform your audience.
Jargon assumes a level of prior knowledge. Its meaning is usually not immediately clear unless you understand the history of the terminology. It requires the audience to understand – and remember – its context.
For example, acronyms are widely used in most professions, and the same term can have wildly different meanings, depending on the industry. This means that depending on the audience, the interpretation of this jargon can be markedly different – or extremely confusing, as the terminology would likely appear to be out of context. As such, while acronyms may save the writer a few seconds, they can cost the reader many minutes, as they try to comprehend what’s being said.
Reason #3: Jargon disconnects
When you write, you want your content to connect with both the subject matter and the audience, no matter what you’re trying to achieve.
Jargon generally evolves as a way to express a specific concept or set of circumstances. Its meaning is obscured by either the simplification of detail or addition of complexity. It often requires interpretation into ‘plain language’ for a general audience to understand.
For example, legalese is specifically designed to account for all possible outcomes. This jargon is often extremely complex and convoluted, making it hard for the average person to determine the meaning. As such, it’s a language that perpetuates the need for professional advice – both in its use and its interpretation.
Tips for avoiding jargon
I think it’s important to note that, when I say, “always avoid using jargon”, I don’t mean you have to leave out all technical detail. I just mean you should aim to use language that is as simple and clear as possible.
When you write, always keep your audience in mind and reflect the language they would normally use. As a general rule, erring on the side of simplicity is best, and Google can be a great help if you can’t think of a different word.
It also never hurts to have someone who’s not familiar with the subject matter read over your content and give you feedback. And if you continue to be challenged in avoiding jargon (perhaps it has just become second nature to you), then enlisting the help of a content writer to work from a brief created by you is the best answer.
I invite you to let me know how I may be able to help you with this.