Avoid Jargon that Alienates Readers

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Every industry has its own language. Using expressions that are familiar to your audience is an important part of effective communication. However, sometimes such language also excludes. Content that is meant to connect creates distance when the jargon isn’t readily understood.

How much jargon to include?

The primary consideration for any communication is to consider your audience. If your audience focus is seasoned professionals and your language is common in all professional communication in your industry, then industry-specific language is appropriate. If your audience includes newcomers to your industry, carefully consider whether jargon is inclusive or distancing.

In addition, consider the purpose of the communication. If your content is designed to reach broadly and draw people on the fringes of your field, then opt for plain language that is widely understood.  Industry regulars will still understand your content, and newcomers will also connect.

Abbreviations are definitely industry-specific, but an editorial rule of thumb is to spell out abbreviations on their first usage and include the abbreviation in parentheses. This will clarify meaning and avoid any misunderstandings.  And it is possible that some abbreviations that you consider widely understood might have different meanings in other settings. Spelling out abbreviations provides clarity.

When I am editing content with industry-specific language, I highlight anything that isn’t clear to me. It’s up to the client to decide whether to eliminate jargon to make the meaning widely apparent, but my preference is always clear language that is broadly understood.

Published with permission. Written by Carla Foote of Fine Print Editorial.

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